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Surprising sleep habits of U.S. presidents

In today’s divided political arena there aren’t many statements with bipartisan support, but here’s one: Boll & Branch makes the softest sheets out there. (You may have heard that a few U.S. presidents have them!)

As it turns out, it’s not just their choice of sheets that has Republicans and Democrats nodding in agreement. When it comes to presidential sleep habits, our two parties may be more alike than they think. From the epic nappers to the functional insomniacs, we bring you the most common (and surprising) sleep habits of our U.S. presidents.

They Disregard Doctor’s Orders

Doctors recommend adults get about seven to eight hours of shut-eye a night. So how much sleep does the President get? Trump says he sleeps only about half that. His predecessor, President Obama, burned the midnight oil, often taking calls with staffers and hunkering down on paperwork past 2am. Another Democrat, Bill Clinton, bragged that he was a “functional insomniac,” reportedly telling his advisors that “sleep was overrated.”

One president who would beg to differ was Calvin Coolidge, who routinely slept a whopping 11 hours a night. Coolidge liked to joke that his elongated slumber was actually a good thing, because if he was asleep then he couldn’t possibly mess anything up. He often woke up and asked his staff, “Is the country still here?”

They Nap Like a Boss

Our 35th and 36th presidents had more in common than their political party and three-initial names. JFK and LBJ both also had a penchant for “double shift days.” They woke up around 6:30 or 7am, and worked for a few hours before taking a midday 30-minute nap. After the nap, they began their second shift, continuing their official duties into the late hours of the evening.

It turns out these two were onto something, as recent studies from UC Berkeley and Harvard proved that short siestas can help maintain your mental health and even reduce your risk of heart disease.

George W. Bush could appreciate a nap just as much as the Democrats before him. Also an early riser, Bush took midday naps and went to bed early. In fact, he once remarked, “I’m trying to set the record as the president who got to bed earliest on Inauguration Day.”

Then there was Ronald Reagan, who, instead of heading off into retirement, took the oath of office at nearly 70. Not one to shy away from his critics, Reagan embraced his love of midday naps. When he was leaving office, he joked that his cabinet chair should be inscribed with, “Ronald Reagan Slept Here.”

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They Were Legendary Snorers

While snoring has plagued the White House since the days of George Washington, it appears this pesky habit runs in the family. Father and son, Presidents John and John Quincy Adams were known snorers, as were cousins Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. However, it was Teddy who really took the cake. During his stay at a D.C. hospital, he snored so loudly that staff had to move an entire floor of patients in order for them to get some sleep. Taking the snoring to epic (and dangerous) proportions were Grover Cleveland and William Howard Taft, who both suffered from sleep apnea. It’s no coincidence that they were the two heaviest presidents—weighing in at about 280 and 340 pounds—as this condition is linked to obesity. Sleep apnea interrupts a person’s breathing during sleep, and can cause drowsiness and even cognitive impairment during the day. This was the case for Taft, who was known to fall asleep in every place imaginable—from the car to the opera—and even fell asleep mid-conversation with the speaker of the house and chief justice.

Content Tile - U.S. Presidents Bed

They Get Spooked by Ghosts

Is the White House haunted? It depends who you ask.

President Harry Truman went to bed one night, only to be awoken by a knocking sound on his bedroom door. He jumped up, put his bathrobe on, and opened up the door. But no one was there. Similarly, the Obamas were startled in the middle of the night by strange sounds in the hall. When the two went out to investigate, nothing was there.

One of the most common sightings is the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. First Lady Grace Coolidge reported seeing him while looking out a window in her office. And President Reagan once remarked that his dog would wander inside every bedroom in the White House—except for Lincoln’s—where he instead stayed outside and barked.

They Saw the Future Coming

While you may think split mattresses are a recent invention, the Kennedy family was onto this trend way before the rest of us. President John F. Kennedy liked a hard, supportive mattress, while his wife Jacqueline Kennedy preferred a softer surface. To compromise, the First Lady decided to push two twin beds together while living in the White House. Problem solved!

They Laid the Foundation for Years to Come

One of the most well-known objects in the White House is the Lincoln bed. Originally purchased by First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln around 1861, this rosewood bed is about eight feet long with a huge headboard, and decorated with grapevines and birds.

Many presidents have slept in the famous Lincoln bed, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Calvin Coolidge. But one president who never slept in it? Lincoln himself.

The reasons why he didn’t sleep there are unclear. Maybe it was because Lincoln’s son Willie died in that bed at age 11. Or it could be that Lincoln needed a larger bed to suit his height. Either way, one thing’s for sure: The Lincolns had great taste.