On Sleep: Wisdom & Courage from Prophets & Other Inspired Individuals

Let us remember that not only scientific laboratories but wisdom from the ancients and insight from inspired individuals can give us information on matters of importance. To ignore historical and prophetic wisdom at the expense of focusing on the laboratory, or the opposite, to leave the laboratory to just listen to leaders and wise men, is to put oneself at risk of assuming radical views which will not lead to desired outcomes.


This is a collection of teachings on and examples of the prophets and other inspired individuals about sleep. We must serve God, and we look up to those who have gone before to help us be inspired about ways we can offer our whole souls as an offering to God. Sometimes this balance of service and self-care can involve less sleep. I would note that regular use of stimulants indicates that our sleep patterns are unstable and not suitable for a healthy long-term lifestyle. We will frequently consider as we review these teachings that there is more to life than sleep, and that much of what must be done can indeed be done on less sleep.


– Fun quote from Joseph Smith – The Lord comforts us by means of our dreams, even when they don’t make sense. (Note: It’s been said by modern psychologists that dreaming is critical to our mental health.)


-Reportedly Hugh Nibley said he would rather get up at noon and write good books than get up at 6am and write bad books. This shows how and when you sleep isn’t really the key to success, it’s just a minor and negotiable component which can’t be enlarged more than other more crucial components. There appears to be seasons of rest, seasons of little rest, etc., depending on the dictation of the Holy Ghost, our spiritual attunement to recognize that dictation, and our moral courage to answer the promptings of the Holy Ghost, as we tread the path toward become holy ourselves. He that is commanded in all things is not a slothful and not a wise servant the revelation says.


-“Give me that mountain to climb” said President Kimball. President Kimball and his wife were sick
with a very high temperature fever, he was nevertheless the first ready in the morning, and
went to all his meetings that day, and looked to the needs of others throughout the day. Though his
various cancers and other serious Job-like health trials, we have never heard him complain. President
Kimball didn’t expect those around him to keep up with him and work at his pace. He did expect people
to do their best. He had a sign on his desk that said, “do it”. They couldn’t get President Kimball
to rest before the long series of meetings of the day. He said that if they knew what he did, they would understand why he did what he did. There were gaps in the schedule, President Kimball pointed out the gaps and asked Elder Hales “what are these? Why am I not attending meetings in these times?” Elder Hales said “those are rest periods.” President Kimball said, “Are you tired, Elder Hales?” Elder Hales would express his concern to his companions about the health of President Kimball considering how he could get Kimball to rest, his companions said, “you can try”. When others would try to help him rest, he would tell them, “I know you’re trying to save me, but I don’t want to be saved, I want to be exalted.” (“Examples from the Life of a Prophet” by Elder Robert D Hales, about President Spencer W Kimball, Gen. Conf. Oct. 1981)


-Joseph Fielding Smith all his life was up by 6am and in his office by 8am. (see book ‘In the Company of Prophets by D. Arthur Haycock)

– Spencer W Kimball didn’t sleep much. If working hard could make up for his inadequacies he would. So he slept only a few hours each night and became a master of sneaking away every now and then for a 15-minute cat nap, then was back in action. At 2am the lights were often still on the Spencer Kimball home. He would be writing in his journal responding to letters and thanking them for any bit of faith they had in such letters. In his journals he not only wrote of the things of the day, but he opened his heart. There are 33 black binders of these journals he kept. He said that in journals don’t put your sins in neon but write you have weaknesses and quickly get on to the good stuff, to the inspired. (see Truman G Madsen book on the Presidents of the church)

-“When I served with President Kimball, I never worked so hard in my life.” (see book ‘In the Company of Prophets by D. Arthur Haycock pg. 90)

-“I have learned that the best time to wrestle with major problems is early in the morning. Your mind is fresh and alert. The blackboard of your mind has been erased by a good night’s rest. The accumulated distractions of the day are not in your way. Your body has been rested also. That’s the time to think something through very carefully and to receive personal revelation. I’ve heard President Harold B. Lee begin many a statement about matters involving revelation with an expression something like this: “In the early hours of the morning, while I was pondering upon the subject,” and so on. He made it a practice to work on the problems that required revelation in the fresh, alert hours of the early morning… I counsel our children to do their critical studying in the early hours of the morning when they’re fresh and alert, rather than to fight the physical weariness and mental exhaustion at night. I’ve learned that the dictum “Early to bed, early to rise” is powerful. When under pressure—for instance, when I was preparing this talk—you wouldn’t find me burning the midnight oil. Much rather I’d be early to bed and getting up in the wee hours of the morning, when I could be close to Him who guides this work.” (Elder Boyd K. Packer, 1975 BYU Devotional “Self Reliance”, https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/boyd-k-packer_self-reliance/)


-Brigham Young said the man who honors their Priesthood will be exhausted. (Hugh Nibly, BofM/PoGP class referenced)

-Brigham Young said he felt his bones in him would consume lest he preached the gospel once he had found it, and left all temporal things so to do. He said he is not bound back by wife and child or nothing, but is living for the gospel. He said “I want you to ware your selves out (for the gospel cause).” (Hugh Nibly, BofM/PoGP class referenced)

-Elder Jeffrey R Holland said missionaries (etc.) collapse into bed at the end of the day “delightfully exhausted”

-“Eight hours work, eight hours sleep, and eight hours recreation – Brigham Young” (Susa Young Gates and Leah D. Widtsoe, The Life Story of Brigham Young (1931), 251)(also referenced in Ensign 2003 A Rock-Solid Foundation for Marriage By Brent A. Barlow https://www.lds.org/ensign/2003/06/a-rock-solid-foundation-for-marriage?lang=eng)

-“it is harder for the Spirit to shine in and through our physical bodies when we are dozy and dull from foolishly going to bed at 1:30 A.M. or 2:30 A.M. or later night after night after night (see D&C 88:124).” (By Elder David A. Bednar Area Authority Seventy From a devotional address given at Ricks College on 11 January 2000. Published also in the Ensign, September 2001 see https://www.lds.org/ensign/2001/09/ye-are-the-temple-of-god?lang=eng)

-Pres. McKay read 4-5 books a week. He would only sleep 4 hrs. per night, bed at 12am up at 4am

-President Boyd K Packer said that when he has a large project that must be done, rather than staying up late to do it, he will rise early to do it. He says he prefers this method so that he can do the task “with the Lord”.

-When I took classes from BYU Biblical Hebrew professor and prolific author Dr. Donald Parry, he would sometimes speak to us of how he would at times wake very early, sometimes even at 2am, he would pray for the Lord to let him rest a little more, and the answer would come that no, it’s time to get up and get to work.

-Cleon Skousen was asked a project by the First Presidency, they knew he had what today is 5 full time jobs; he to complete the assignment had to stay up till 4 or 5 AM some days.

-Brigham Young would only get 4 hours of sleep when he was involved in a great project temple work etc.

-one BYU News recent study shows students with 7 hours of sleep do better than those who get 9 hours of sleep.

-Holy Ghost be your guide

-Joseph Fielding Smith thought it immoral to be in bed past 6am

-Brigham Young said don’t use stimulants to stay awake. President Russel M Nelson has echoed this council.

-Missionaries get 8 hours

-Joseph Worthlin got up early to have 2 hours of gospel study each morning

-Pres. Kimball would oft. go home after work then go back to work after that to finish things when things were not done

-Julie Preece, the student management professor of BYU, says stay at work till work done then go home

-Pres. Monson says burn the midnight oil to get good grades

-Professor of Greek at BYU Steven Bay says go off only 5 hours sleep if it means getting your studying in

-a founding father / French revolutionist said those who want to make revolution can only sleep in their grave

-at times Pres. Eyring prays all night

-President Russel M Nelson has urged us to not use harmful stimulants.

-Jesus rose before others in the morning to go pray

-Jesus and other prophets have gone without food for 40 days and still been able to learn much in that time

-Jesus prayed all night when trying to choose which to call as the 12 Apostles

-Pres. George Albert Smith would rise at 3 am to go help a poor bum not commit suicide

-recent Gen. Conf. Elder Scott said get a reasonable amount of sleep

-recent Gen. Conf. Elder Holland said we must pay for health if not now then later

-Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood involves a renewal of the flesh

-The Holy Ghost quickens and strengthens all things in your body

-The D&C teaches that we are expected to follow the righteous desires of our hearts and do much good of our own will

-Napoleon Bonaparte was asked how many hours sleep people need, he is said to have replied: “Six for a man, seven for a woman, eight for a fool.” https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22084671

-The prolific inventor Thomas Edison slept three or four hours at night, regarding sleep as a waste of time, “a heritage from our cave days.”  http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/maas-sleep.html?scp=63&sq=sleep&st=Search

-there are many sources which suggest that Einstein, Tesla, Leo Da Vinci and many other past century geniuses did sleep for only a few hours per day or they took several naps of few minutes each, per day. https://www.quora.com/Did-Einstein-sleep-for-three-hours-a-year

-Leonardo da Vinci’s sleep schedule included 20-minute naps every four hours. Da Vinci followed an extreme form of a polyphasic sleep schedule called the Uberman sleep cycle, which consists of 20-minute naps every four hours.https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/14-bizarre-sleeping-habits-of-super-successful-people-a7002076.html 

-Every day at 5 p.m., the prime minister would drink a weak whiskey and soda before taking a two-hour nap. Churchill said this short “siesta” allowed him to get 1 1/2 days’ worth of work done every 24 hours. Churchill would often work through the night and became known as quite the night owl. Because of his irregular sleep schedule, he was said to hold War Cabinet meetings in his bath. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/14-bizarre-sleeping-habits-of-super-successful-people-a7002076.html

-The 19th-century novelist and poet Emily Bronte suffered from insomnia, and she would walk around her dining room table until she felt tired enough to fall asleep. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/14-bizarre-sleeping-habits-of-super-successful-people-a7002076.html

-Inventor Nikola Tesla got more out of the day with his limited sleep schedule. Like Da Vinci, Telsa also followed the Uberman sleep cycle and claimed to never sleep for more than two hours a day. He once reportedly worked for 84 hours straight in a lab without any rest. “I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success … Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything,” he said.


-I have a sibling who maintained heavy credit hours in heavy subject matter with a 4.0 throughout high school, college, and graduate school. At least 1 semester he reported to sleep 4 hours a night on average. I asked him, “you have a legendary semester when you slept 4 hours on average. What are some things you did during that time to not go crazy and stay focused? I know you don’t use caffeine (which actually disables focus and endurance etc.)” His response, “If by “legendary” you mean horrible…The best advice is don’t do it.  My health/habits are still wrecked from it. Who says I didn’t go crazy?  Who says I successfully focused?  And any time I could, I slept.  4 hrs. just isn’t enough sleep. I don’t think I have any pointers on how to make it less miserable, since it was making me pretty miserable.  And it definitely can’t be done very long term.” He also reported that you can do anything you put your mind to.

-researchers are now questioning whether it’s bad to have more or less than 8 hours of sleep ( see medical lies article from Ioannidis found by Ann Tracy)

-age plays a factor in amount needed

-Julie Preece (BYU councilor) says need 8-10 hours

-Other psychologist at BYU said need 7.5-8 hrs.

-Some monks or something get average of 2 or 3 hours for have trained their bodies such

-anatomic clock

-can anatomic clock be trained?

-have goals and go by their completion rather than a clock

-nurse Marguerite Richardson said eat healthy no sugars if want power to stay awake longer

-paleo diet people in ancient bible lived much longer than we do .

-Curt Shattuck says you don’t want less than 6 hours of sleep

-economist Harold Douglas Morris says with sleep/late nights, that there comes a point of diminishing returns. AKA eventually getting less sleep does more harm than good.

-Dr. Hugh Nibley says to stay up until 2am doing studies, and laments how the lights don’t burn late at BYU. Nibley speaks of taking school more seriously. President Dallin H Oaks, Elder Neil A Maxwell, and others have spoken very highly of Hugh Nibley.

-When I took Biblical Hebrew classes from Dr. Stephen Ricks at BYU, he reported that he studied long and hard when in school, and that as a professor, he planned to remain teaching until he drooled. He and Dr. Donald Parry, another BYU Hebrew Professor, reportedly have a little game of who gets to campus earliest. They are usually there by 6am at the latest.

-Joseph Smith says ware out your lives in bringing hidden things to light

-LDS hymn more holiness give me says ‘more USED would I be’

-Joseph Richardson says don’t go to sleep until your homework due the following day is done

-President Packer says when he has a big project to do he goes to bed early and wakes up early to do it so he can be with the Lord

-the scripture says early to bed early to rise and cease to sleep longer than is NEEDFUL.

-varying circumstances probably alter what should be done

-if you feel bad continually about your current pattern, go get another one.

-we must work out our salvation, and do so until we feel that the Lord is satisfied with our efforts (and we find that out from the Lord by scripture study and especially prayer). Until then, it’s hand to the plow.

-it’s reported that the 12 Apostles work harder than anyone, why should this be? Indeed, they have instructed that we ought not wait for some big calling to come to us to give our all-in service

-the latter-day saints are long known for their industry

-Pres. Kimball went through many health trials, perhaps from wearing himself out, and this shows life is more than meat; that truly there are more important things to accomplish

-do the commandments like caring to the poor despite all.

-Elder Scott in a recent Conf. Report (2013?) Said that scripture study is more important than sleep

-use the opportunities only available to an American

-less than 8 hours of sleep can, for a young person, cause them to not retain what they were learning the day prior; (but one may have duties to do, and not need remember everything.)

-having constant headaches could be very bad for the health

-men are responsible for providing for their family, preaching the gospel, giving their family a nice home, fixing it up, etc.

-Pathophysiology professor Mary Cook wakes up at 4am each day, and doesn’t respond to late night or late evening emails.


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