The early bird may get the worm, but the night owl may be smarter – according some research.
Recent studies suggest that those who deviate from their preordained sleeping patterns may do so because they are more intelligent than those who go to bed early. Not only are they smarter but they are often more creative. Evolutionary scientists say that this is because sleeping in is “evolutionarily novel.” It did not make sense for our ancestors to stay up working late through the night. This is because night time was dangerous. Until recently, there were no Taco Bells at 2 AM, only predators you could not see. The study shows that staying up late has almost nothing to do with heritability. Instead, it has more to do with an individual’s choices. Essentially, it takes a smart person to think to deviate from these evolutionary norms and choose to stay up all night.
Late sleepers may be making the decision to stay up all night instead of sleeping. But why does this make them smart?
In a study performed by the Catholic University of the Sacred heart in Milan, 120 men and women completed a self-reporting questionnaire. The questionnaire asked them about whether they were a morning or an evening person. The groups were then divided up according to their answers. They were then subjected to further tests designed to test their creative ability. The subjects first drew pictures based on images shown to them. They were then told to complete incomplete shapes and give them a title. In the final test, the participants were given a piece of paper with 30 pairs of lines and told to create and title another picture.
The researchers then looked at the results. They judged each picture on flexibility, fluidity originality and elaboration. The results showed that those who identified as night owls scored significantly higher than early risers.
Late sleepers tend to do their best work at night and often find they are more creative after the sun sets. Scientists are not yet sure why this is the case. They think that it goes back to bucking against their evolutionary trends. According to the researchers, these late sleepers showed a “non-conventional spirit and the ability to find alternative and original solutions.”
Early risers have a sleeping pattern that sees them awake early in the morning and asleep early at night. However, early risers are more likely to be tired by the mid-afternoon. This means that these people are losing a good part of their day. It turns out that there is a reason for this that has less to do with productivity and more to do with brain chemistry.
A study at the University of Liege looked at the contrasts in brain activity between early risers and night owls. Both groups had similar levels of productivity upon waking. However, after 10 hours, the early risers had significantly lower brain activity. They also had a decreased attention span compared to the night owls.
This means that even though early risers are technically awake for more hours of the day, they are less productive than night owls. This makes the night owls smarter because they take full advance of their sleep cycle. Thus, the night owls are able to do more with their day.
In theory, those who wake up late should be less stressed. However, extreme late sleepers have a more relaxing schedule than early risers as a whole.
Another study performed by scientists in Westminster tested the saliva of 42 men and women for two days. The goal was to analyze the level of the stress hormone called cortisol in the body. The results showed that those who woke up early had far higher levels of cortisol than the late sleepers. The results of this study may be of a more environmental nature that the previous studies. Early risers tend to be busier during the day and have no time to read a gold IRA rollover guide to try to make some extra cash. The number of problems they have to solve and the number of times they are hassled is also greater. Thus, early risers have less energy by the time they go back to sleep anyway.
On the other hand, late sleepers generally have the time to live life at more leisurely pace. Thus, they could work longer and not suffer the after lunch slump.
It turns out that your day is not ruled by what side of the bed you wake up on. It is all what time you wake up. Instead of chastising your favorite night owl for staying up all night, they should be applauded for choosing to kick their evolutionary habits and make the most of their circadian rhythm.
Featured photo credit: Paul Oakenfold At Sutra/Tony Nungaray via flickr.com
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