For much of his adult life, Elvis Presley maintained a nocturnal sleep schedule. He fell asleep in the early hours of the morning and woke up late in the afternoon. This schedule came from a lifelong fear of sleepwalking and his terror of the dark. According to one of Elvis’ friends, the musician said he could not fall asleep when the sun was down.
Elvis had a fear of the dark that impacted his sleep schedule
When Elvis took friends on a ski trip in Denver, he reunited with his friend, police officer Ron Pietrafeso. The pair would meet up and talk late into the night. Elvis admitted that these hours were best for him; he never slept during the night.
“He said, ‘When I was a little kid, I couldn’t sleep. I was really afraid of the dark, ’cause I didn’t know what was going to happen to me,’” Pietrafeso recalled in the book Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick.
Elvis said that he preferred to sleep during the day because he felt safer.
“I know in the daytime when I go to sleep that it’s dark in my room, and I pretend like it’s night, but I know it’s daytime, and I’m not afraid to fall asleep,” he told Pietrafeso. “So I stay up all night, and I have my friends with me, and I feel comfortable. In the morning, when everybody else is up and going to work, I feel safe because it’s daytime — and I can go to sleep.”
The musician was also concerned that he would sleepwalk
When Priscilla Presley began a relationship with Elvis, she adopted his nocturnal hours. He told her that he had dreaded insomnia as a child.
“He dreaded insomnia and feared sleepwalking, which had plagued him periodically since childhood,” Priscilla wrote in her book Elvis and Me. “In fact, as a boy, he’d once sleepwalked straight out of his apartment, dressed only in his underwear. A neighbor woke him, and, embarrassed, he ran back into the house. Another time, he nearly fell out of a window. Consequently, to avoid accidents, he slept with his parents until he was grown, and he feared his sleepwalking habit for the rest of his life.”
Elvis would typically sleep for long hours
To maintain his sleep schedule, Elvis relied on sleeping pills. These left him groggy and irritable when he woke up in the late afternoon.
“Everyone who knew Elvis was aware that it took him at least two or three hours to wake up fully,” Priscilla wrote. “Asking him to make a decision, even a simple one such as what movie he wanted to see that night, was ill-advised.”
Priscilla explained that he typically slept for over half the day.
“He was just too groggy and irritable from the sleeping pills, which were causing him to sleep as many as fourteen hours a day,” she wrote. “It seemed only natural for him to take some Dexedrine to wake up.”