There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Elon Musk is an extremely important figure in our culture today. In truth, that goes for people around the world because the projects he is into have implications for improving industry and the way we interact with technology for everyone, everywhere.
That unfortunately means that we are even concerned with his sleep habits. It borders on ridiculous for massive portions of the public to be worried about how a single entrepreneur is sleeping, but that is the world we live in. And that is how important this man is to the world.
Musk is working on developing solutions for an incredible number of different problems that people are facing in the United States, as well as the world, as a whole. So, when that kind of a person is not getting enough sleep, it’s mainstream news and a concern for people everywhere.
Elon Musk is Famous for Getting No Sleep
Elon Musk was already famous and probably always will be for one reason or another, but he has somehow now positioned himself to be a poster-child for sleep deprivation and its effects on workaholics.
Especially after a couple of Tweets that he sent out recently, on a couple of different occasions, it became clear to the world that Musk’s sleep might be becoming a problem for him. Here are the infamous Tweets that he sent out, setting off alarms for concerned parties who happened to see them:
“Ford & Tesla are the only 2 American car companies to avoid bankruptcy. I just got home from the factory. You think this in an option. It is not.”
That Tweet was actually Musk responding to Arianna Huffington, who had previously written an open letter to him that implored him (not in the nicest way possible) to get more sleep because it was necessary for him to stay in good health. You can read the full letter by following the link at the end of this post.
“Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.”
According to a UK publication in August of 2018, Musk explained that he wrote that Tweet in the car on the way to the airport. He noted that he posted it in “an attempt at transparency”, but his Tesla board members were completely freaked out by the Tweet and had to immediately run damage control with the media regarding this.
They apparently had no previous knowledge of his claim to take the company private, or the number, $420, that he came out with. Musk thereafter explained his reasoning for that number, which made perfect sense, but he had already successfully scared the hell out of his board. (Independent)
The point is that these odd Tweets have signaled to some people that the strange activity is a direct result of sleep deprivation; however, the controversy could very likely be a non-issue that has been amplified by the media to create a story. It’s up to you to decide how impactful the problem is, and it’s honestly none of our business to begin with.
Of course, lack of sleep can be harmful to any of us, but Elon Musk seems to be doing just fine, some unhealthy habits notwithstanding. As famous as this story is, it still hasn’t been definitively shown that Musk’s work is suffering from his sleep schedule.
Musk is Uncommonly Driven
To get to the point that Musk has reached in his career, you don’t get there without a certain drive and a unique talent. On top of all the crushing pressure you’re inevitably going to experience from the urgent need to make sure the companies you’re starting stay in the black, the stress of being a successful entrepreneur doesn’t stop there.
To be able to push through that relentless stress and pressure, you need to have a powerful drive and a strong, deep vision that makes it eventually all worthwhile. As you look into his commentary and lectures discussing what he’s working on and his passions, you see that he feels personally responsible for moving essential industries forward into the next generation.
Humility Brings Greater Success, and Greater Accountability
Normally, a person like that would develop some kind of a messiah complex or at least become very arrogant, but Musk seems to be pretty humble about what he does and just wants to improve our ways of life. There is a bit of a control freak side to him, which is pretty common with highly-octane entrepreneurs, as he feels that he needs to be present for every decision that is made to propel his companies forward.
That can certainly be forgiven, since he is clearly instrumental in creating the success that his companies are having. The point here is that Musk depriving himself of sleep to some degree because of his very strong motivation to bring his visions to fruition and complete his mission, which, though we understand what has been published about him in the media, is still only known to himself.
It is Musk’s belief that slowing his speed to sleep more is, “not an option”. To him, stopping or slowing down his current momentum and intensity is equal to giving up. It’s literally unacceptable to him.
Some People Don’t Need as Much Sleep
There is a very small percentage of the population who truly don’t require the same amount of sleep that everyone else does. In a study cited by an article last year, in 2018, they found that, “some people are built to survive on less sleep and will sleep just six hours, even in laboratory conditions”. Don’t get too excited because the people they’re referring to there apparently make up only 1% of the population.
There is this almost mythical gene (though it actually exists in reality) labeled, “BHLHE41” shared by the people we’re talking about here—those are the people who don’t have to get as much sleep as the rest of us. Getting the average amount of sleep every night can actually be unfavorable and potentially detrimental for the people who have this gene. (Business Insider)
Is This Sleep Thing Really Affecting Him?
The study shows, however, that it is, “incredibly rare”, so there’s not much chance that you have it, not to mention that Elon Musk probably doesn’t have it because he appears to be struggling with the consequences of his lack of sleep, which we’ll get into shortly. The fact remains that, mythical gene-holder or not, Musk might not actually need the standard amount of sleep that everyone seems to be imposing on him.
It really doesn’t seem to be very fun for him to get such little sleep, as he reveals in his New York Times interview (also linked at the end of this post); so, the logical conclusion about all of this hullabaloo over Elon Musk’s sleep habits is that people are nosy. He probably knows what he’s doing.
Elon Has His Own Way of Managing Sleep
When you’re in the midst of a low-sleep regimen, it tends to turn you all the way back around and, ironically, makes it difficult for you to finally get to sleep, which you so desperately need at that point. Musk admits that he sometimes takes an Ambien to fall asleep.
Now, you can interpret that any way you want to, but if you’ve ever taken Ambien, you know how weird of a drug it can be, especially if you’re already severely sleep-deprived. The drug was designed for people who have real issues with insomnia for specific reasons.
Unfortunately, though, prescription-happy doctors will usually be happy to give you Ambien if you’re having trouble sleeping at all, even if it’s not necessarily advisable for you to use a powerful sleep aid like this one. The Ambien that Musk is taking from time to time, to get some much-needed sleep, could very well be contributing to his odd Tweets and even be causing further sleep and mood issues for him.
Check out these side effects that you can experience from using Ambien. These are only a fraction of the possible side effects you could experience from Zolpidem (Ambien):
- chest pain
- confusion about identity, place, and time
- false or unusual sense of well-being
- trouble concentrating
- trouble sleeping
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- muscle aches
- sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
Those side effects are only possible effects and are not experienced by everyone who takes Ambien, and the information above that we’re offering about the drug is, of course, not intended to provide medical advice of any kind for the purpose of curing or treating any illness. Those side effects were drawn from an external source, published by the Mayo Clinic, which you will find cited at the end of this post.
The point of showing these side effects is merely to illustrate the fact that it’s just another factor that can make someone’s struggle to manage their sleep while dealing with an extremely heavy workload very hard to handle.
Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures
Especially when your mind is constantly stimulated, and you’re continually working hard, your mind has a tough time shutting down after such a long active period. Taking the Ambien has proved unproductive for Musk in those times when he takes it, and it isn’t the healthiest way to get to sleep, either.
To be clear, this is not meant to dig at Elon Musk’s methods of working or his lifestyle; it is just meant to comment on the fact that there are a variety of factors that could potentially contribute to the somewhat challenging period of his life that he’s going through right now.
He has, himself, admitted that the past year has been one of the toughest he’s ever experienced. So he’s used a few aids to help him stay on point and keep himself on track to fulfill his visions—so what? It’s up to Elon, his doctors, and his family and friends to decide if he should change how he lives and works.
A Strong Sense of Responsibility
Musk feels that, aside from the money he needs to make to keep his companies afloat and to stay ahead of the curve, there is a profound need for the work he is doing. We’ve already talked a little bit about where his head is at concerning his work (and this is total speculation), but the thing that seems to keep him pushing himself as far as he can is the social responsibility that he feels to complete his projects.
The types of projects that he is working on are solutions. These solutions are things like achieving zero-emission cars and solar power units for homes that average consumers can afford and install. The importance of these solutions is deeply felt by Musk.
He is obviously making a lot of money from the companies that he owns, but the money doesn’t usually drive someone to sacrifice their own health and make themselves an accessible public figure who expresses concerns about the vital issues that affect all of us.
Who knows—maybe he is really just in it for the money. That just doesn’t seem likely. You won’t find many entrepreneurs who are pushing these technologies forward for average people as much as Elon Musk is.
What’s He Building in There?
His passion is a large part of what keeps him going. Here are some of the things that Elon Musk is passionate about:
- Developing high-performing electric cars for the average consumer
- Building solar-powered units to meet the energy needs of any home
- Colonize Mars
- Transform city transit systems and other transport systems
- Protecting us all from homicidal AI
1. Andrew Griffin, “Elon Musk Repeatedly Breaks Down in Interview as He Admits Taking Pills to Sleep and Explains Bizarre Tesla Tweet,” Independent, August 17, 2018, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/elon-musk-tesla-tweet-private-drugs-sleeping-pills-crying-new-york-times-a8495531.html
2. Hilary Brueck, “Elon Musk Says Grueling 120-Hour Work Weeks Are Taking a Toll on His Health—Here’s What Sleeping Less than 7 Hours a Night Can Do to You,” Business Insider, August 17, 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/elon-musk-sleep-deprivation-damage-2018-8
3. Lisa Fickenscher, “Elon Musk: Sleep Is ‘Not’ an Option,” New York Post, August 19, 2018, https://nypost.com/2018/08/19/elon-musk-sleep-is-not-an-option/
4. Leonid Bershidsky, “Why Elon Musk Doesn’t Need More Sleep, According to Science,” Financial Review, August 24, 2018, https://www.afr.com/lifestyle/health/why-workaholic-elon-musk-doesnt-need-more-sleep-20180823-h14e46
5. “Zolpidem (Oral Route): Description and Brand Names,” Mayo Clinic, May 1, 2019 (last updated), https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/zolpidem-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20061195?p=1
Open Letter from Arianna Huffington:
New York Times Interview:
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.