On Friday, media mogul Arianna Huffington sent an open letter to tech mogul Elon Musk urging him to get more sleep. Her note followed his candid New York Times interview in which he claimed he had been working 120 hours a week and often relied on Ambien to fall asleep. A couple days later, at 2:32 a.m. PDT on Sunday, Musk took to Twitter to rebuff her advice.
Various news outlets pointed to Musk’s admissions about being severely sleep deprived as one of the more alarming revelations from his interview with the Times. Musk’s supposed work schedule only affords him seven hours of personal time per day, suggesting that he is consistently failing to get a full seven hours of sleep, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for adults from ages 18 to 60.
As Slate’s Felix Salmon noted, the consequences of sleep deprivation may be particularly deleterious for someone like Musk. Not only do reasoning, problem-solving skills, and short-term memory take a hit, but sleep deprivation also exacerbates erratic behavior, particularly in people who are already predisposed to be impulsive. The Times reported that Tesla’s board members are worried that Musk’s use of Ambien may be fueling some his bizarre behavior on Twitter. Sleep deprivation may also be contributing to his ill-advised tweets, such as the pedophilia accusation he levied against one of the cave divers who saved the Thai youth soccer team (and later apologized for) or his abrupt pronouncement that he was planning on taking Tesla private.
Huffington makes similar arguments in her letter, which she published on her wellness website Thrive Global. Huffington has long been an evangelist for the benefits of sleep; she authored a book titled The Sleep Revolution and famously installed nap rooms in the Huffington Post’s offices. “Tesla—and the world (not to mention you and your beautiful children)—would be better off if you regularly built in time to refuel, recharge and reconnect with your exceptional reserves of creativity and your power to innovate,” the letter read, in part. She cites studies that found similarities between the effects of sleep deprivation and intoxication, and even credits Franklin D. Roosevelt’s decision to take a 10-day break during WWII to his effectiveness in resisting Nazi Germany.
From what Musk has described in interviews and at shareholder meetings, Tesla employees have been grinding to the bone to meet extremely ambitious production goals for the Model 3 sedan. At the moment, he appears to be unconvinced that sleep will allow him function at a much higher level.