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10 Reasons Why Night Owls Are Smarter People

10 Reasons Why Night Owls Are Smarter People

Are you a night owl? Most people have heard the phrase ‘the early bird gets the worm’, but various studies have actually shown that night owls may be smarter.

As everyone else is nodding off, the night owls start to become productive, resulting in all kinds of benefits.

Check out 10 reasons why night owls are smarter people.

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1. They Have ‘Evening Strength’

There may be a physical advantage to being a night owl: researchers at the University of Alberta tested the leg strength of nine early birds and nine night owls and found that the leg strength of an early bird remained consistent throughout the day. However, the leg strength of the people who stayed up later actually peaked to higher levels during the evening!

Olle Lagerquist, the co-author of the study, said the reason for this may be because night owls “show increased motor cortex and spinal cord excitability.”

2. They Tend To Be More Relaxed

Early birds often have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which stay high all day. However, night owls are often much more relaxed, as they don’t receive the same amount of cortisol in the morning.

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3. They Score Higher On General Intelligence Tests

A study conducted at the University of Madrid looked at the sleeping patterns of roughly a thousand teenagers. The study came away with two pretty different results; while early risers are more likely to get better grades, the night owls actually scored higher on tests related to general intelligence.

4. They May Need Less Sleep

Researchers from Belgium and Switzerland have discovered that night owls may not actually need as much sleep to function as everyone else. The study noted that after sleeping seven hours a night, early birds started to get wearier. However, this didn’t happen with the people who stayed up later, suggesting to the researchers that they required less sleep.

5. They Can Remain Alert For Longer

A study at the University of Liege, Belgium, monitored 15 extreme night owls and 16 extreme early birds. The participants continued with their normal sleeping patterns, and the researchers measured their brain activity when they first woke up, and then again just over 10 hours later.

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While the scores were similar in the morning, they noted that unlike the night owls, the early birds had lower brain activity in various areas relating to their attention span.

6. They Are More Flexible With Work

Although there are many people who prefer to stay up later, many of them have no choice but to adjust to an early morning schedule for work. Not only do night owls still regularly thrive in these situations, they also easily adapt to the extended hours in their day. This means night owls can often work effectively first thing in the morning, as well as last thing at night!

7. They May Have A Higher IQ

An interesting study conducted at the London School of Economics and Political Science by Satoshi Kanazawa, found a connection between adaptive behaviors and intelligence. The study discovered that “more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to be nocturnal adults who go to bed late and wake up late on both weekdays and weekends.”

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8. They Have Productive Evenings

Night owls always have the option of socializing or working in the evening, because they have the energy to do so. As they go to bed so late, they also still have some wind down time before bed.

9. They Have Time To Prepare For The Following Day

Night owls normally have a long time between finishing work and going to bed, so they often have time to prepare themselves for the following day. From mentally planning the next day to setting out their work clothes, night owls often have their next day planned before it even starts.

10. They Have Strategic Thinking Abilities

Night owls often struggle to sleep, and the dark brings them peace and solitude. During this time night owls contemplate their lives and the world around them, making them more strategic thinkers and helping them to effectively deal with their issues and problems.

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Amy Johnson

Amy is a writer who blogs about relationships and lifestyle advice.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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