Power Players

Elon Musk says he's upped his sleep to 6 hours per night—and that his old routine hurt his brain

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, speaks with CNBC on May 16th, 2023.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

Elon Musk says his days of trying to sleep less and work more are over — at least, relatively speaking.

The Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter CEO, who referred to himself just last year as "fairly nocturnal," has a history of pulling all-nighters and sleeping under his desk to get work done. Now, he makes an effort to sleep at least six hours per night, he said in an interview with CNBC's David Faber on Tuesday.

"I've tried [to sleep] less, but ... even though I'm awake more hours, I get less done," Musk said. "And the brain pain level is bad if I get less than six hours [of sleep per night]."

The ideal amount of sleep varies from person to person, but most adults ages 18 to 60 should sleep at least seven hours a night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep deprivation is linked to heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity and depression, adds the National Institutes of Health.

Staying awake for too long even causes your body to mimic the impairments of being drunk, the CDC also notes.

Other business titans have noted the importance of getting enough sleep in recent years. Bill Gates once boasted a workaholic lifestyle, including no vacation time and a relative lack of friends and social life. Now he gets at least seven hours of sleep, he wrote in a 2019 blog post.

"My all-nighters, combined with almost never getting eight hours of sleep, took a big toll," Gates wrote.

Jeff Bezos has also said he prioritized sleep while running Amazon. ″Eight hours of sleep makes a big difference for me, and I try hard to make that a priority," he told Thrive Global in 2016. "For me, that's the needed amount to feel energized and excited."

Sleep is only part of the equation, experts say. Another variable: how much time you spend at work.

Working more than 55 hours per week can increase the chances of developing heart disease and stroke, research indicates. Work overload can also hinder your relationships and job performance, psychologist Adam Borland told the Cleveland Clinic's health blog in 2021.

Musk often works seven days per week and only takes "two or three" truly workless vacation days per year, he said on Tuesday. He doesn't expect his employees to model that behavior, he added.

"I'm also not saying [people] shouldn't take vacations," Musk said. "I work seven days a week, but I'm not expecting others to do that."

DON'T MISS: Want to be smarter and more successful with your money, work & life? Sign up for our new newsletter!

Get CNBC's free report, 11 Ways to Tell if We're in a Recession, where Kelly Evans reviews the top indicators that a recession is coming or has already begun.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk: 'The laptop class is living in la-la land' over work-from-home
Tesla CEO Elon Musk: 'The laptop class is living in la-la land' over work-from-home