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JAMA 100 Years Ago
January 19, 2000


Author Affiliations

JenniferReiling, Editorial Assistant

JAMA. 2000;283(3):309. doi:10.1001/jama.283.3.309

It is said that certain distinguished men of the past and of the present time have been able to do extraordinary amounts of work on a minimum of sleep, the time used for that function ranging from six to four hours, or even less, according to the reports. The statements are popularly accepted as facts without question, and are also repeated in medical works. A recently published text-book on nervous diseases says that some few adults are able to get along with four or five hours of sleep, though the majority require eight or ten. It is a matter of medical as well as popular belief that men like Edison, Napoleon and others can do more work and endure more fatigue than the great mass of men, with only a little more than half as much sleep as is generally supposed to be required. This is a physical anomaly. There is no machine that can be so made as to do a maximum of work on a minimum of repair or rest, the work done by a watch, for instance, which seems continuous, is very little, only equivalent to the force used in winding it.

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