Ben Franklin once said: “Early to bed, early to rise. Makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” However, scientists are now working on a new motto: “Late to bed, early to rise. Makes a man wealthy and smart.” Indeed, some of the most notable and controversial of today’s studies have proved that intelligent people tend to go to sleep later at night. They are the so-called “night owls”.
Researcher Robert Bolizs of the Semmelweis University conducted a study on the correlation between sleep elements and the so-called “wakeful cognitive performance”, while H. Eliasson and his colleagues studied that between the timing of sleep intervals and academic performance. Last but not least, a study by psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Political Science published in “Study Magazine” revealed that sleep-timing preferences differ depending on people’s IQs. Thus, people present with either “morningness” or “eveningness”, the latter category being generally associated with higher IQs.
According to these studies, there appears to be a tight connection between these phenomena and people’s age. Thus, “eveningness” reaches its peak between the ages of 17 and 21 years, after which individuals suffer a gradual shift toward “morningness”. Conducted on American subjects in their 20s, Kanazawa’s study revealed the following sleep times: 12:29 am to 7:52 am on weekdays and 1:44 am to 11:07 am on weekends among people with IQs higher than 125, 12:10 am to 7:32 am on weekdays and 1:13 am to 10:14 am on weekends among people with normal IQs ranging between 90 and 110 and finally, 11:41 pm to 7:20 am on weekdays and 12:35 am to 10:09 am on weekends among people with IQs lower than 75. This data was also linked to the tendency of intellectual brains to defy sleeping patterns rather than follow them.
However, according to “Winnipeg Free Press”, based on her research in this field, psychologist Marina Giampietro claims that intellectual people also have the tendency to develop emotional instability, depression, eating disorders or addictions, among others, as a result of their endeavor to explore the world and its mysteries at night. And indeed, there seem to be certain things that only people who stay up late at night manage to achieve. Of course, the studies in this field do not mean to question the merits of early risers, but simply demonstrate that staying up late is equally productive.
Despite their tendencies toward various psychological or physical problems, however, people who stay up late tend to have extraordinary features. For starters, they tend to be more open-minded. Some experts associate this feature with the fact that the night is the time when most things that are out of the ordinary happen, whether they involve great achievements, depraved acts or anything else. It is considered to be the most creative time, as well as the most liberating, the time when people get to express themselves, explore their passions, challenge themselves but also spend time alone with their thoughts. Finally, it is the time when they can rebel against any kind of conditions societies impose on them, which often leads to revolutionary and evolutionary ideas and acts. All these manifestations the night facilitates make it the time of greatness really and greatness usually comes with intelligence.
Why are some people nocturnal?
According to “Psychology Today”, researchers Lambertus Klei of Carnegie Mellon University, Patrick Rietz of the University of Pittsburg and their teams, studies conducted at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry have all concluded that it is an individual’s genetic background that establishes whether they are morning larks or night owls.
These studies operate with the term of “circadian rhythm”, which is a daily cycle of activity encountered among all living species, from unicellular organisms to mammals and therefore human beings. This rhythm is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) located in the anterior hypothalamus, which apparently are controlled by a newly discovered set of genes. While proving that there is a genetic base to an individual’s “morningness” or “eveningness”, they do not ignore the fact that humans have conscious and cognitive abilities that enable them to adjust their biological clock or the fact that humans are diurnal at their basis and therefore cannot rely on their night vision.
This takes us back to our ancestors and their sleeping patterns. In the absence of any sources of artificial lighting in primitive times, the diurnal nature of people played a decisive role in their sleeping patterns, their activity being fully conditioned by the sun. In fact, written sources of information, like “The Encyclopedia of World Cultures”, for instance, contain no indications of any nocturnal activities apart from conversations in the dark or singing being undertaken in the traditional cultures. Even more so, they do not associate any terms related to nighttime with them, with the exception of the moon and the concept of “night courting”.
Consequently, the shift to sustained nocturnal activities, whether driven by people’s increasing adaptability to various conditions or the discovery of artificial light sources, is attributed to the process of human evolution overall and implicitly to the evolution of the mind as well. Basically, this is where the theory according to which people of higher intelligence are likely to be nocturnal originates from.
However, this does not alter the views on the influences of the natural dimension in any way, the moon being placed at the heart of the exploration of the energetic stimulants lying behind people’s nocturnal activity. Considered to be wrapped in magic and to contain a special kind of electricity, the moon appears to emit an energy which stimulates people in a most productive way. Whether it is passion, courage, purpose, desire, sadness, happiness, hope or sense of freedom that it activates in people or anything else that might define them, the results are often extraordinary on one level or another. The fact that it produces various changes in individuals at a psychological level as well as an emotional one is also of great relevance when it comes to the outcomes of their nocturnal endeavors. Therefore, it is also tightly connected to the level of intelligence they are attributed, which leads us back to our theory.
How can you become a night owl? And why should you?
On closer examination, the reasoning behind experts connecting the habit of staying up late to intelligence is not at all difficult to understand. The idea that intelligent people are constantly in search of new things to assimilate or experience has already been embraced by researchers worldwide, so there is no reason why we should not expect the same to happen as far as the benefits of staying up late are concerned.
This list of benefits starts with the fact that staying up later into the night is bound to generate a second wave of energy which boosts creativity. This hypothesis is confirmed by the numerous highly-performing students who usually write their papers at night as well as individuals with a very active nightlife on a strictly energetic level.
On the other hand, it also creates a favorable context for those seeking a more peaceful environment in order to be able to access their thoughts or their spiritual side or to assimilate new information. This level of peace is also typically sought after by parents, especially by those of young children.
The research on the benefits of staying up late is bound to provide quite some comfort to working individuals as well for nighttime allows them to enjoy all these benefits simultaneously. Therefore, safeguarded against interruptions of all sorts, they are more likely to achieve better results within a shorter period of time.
Of course, the achievement of any kind of results, whether on a personal level or a professional one, is conditioned by an individual’s ability to stay up late or adjust their sleeping habits. However, this ability can be honed over time provided that a number of factors are taken into consideration. For instance, experts recommend against sitting or lying in bed as this space is typically associated with sleep, so it may activate that need. However, repeated attempts to deactivate it can trigger sleep disorders like insomnia.
A great many people often turn to stimulating substances of various kinds in their attempt to develop their ability to stay up later into the night, but this is also not recommended for those substances may remain in the system for longer than needed. Moving around, listening to music or focusing on various subjects of interest is a much better alternative.
However, it must be noted that staying up late and sleep deprivation are not equivalent notions. Sleep is necessary for any kind of performance to be achieved, whether organized as chunks throughout a period of twenty-four hours or as an uninterrupted seven to nine-hour session. Therefore, in the end, one’s sleeping patterns are tightly connected to their time management skills. But they say practice makes perfect.
That is right. Practice makes perfect. Staying up late can be practiced by anyone who wants to become a night owl and try to improve their performance on any level. However, they should always bear in mind the fact that according to the theory formulated by researchers, intelligent people appear to have a tendency toward staying up late. It does not claim that staying up late automatically leads to a higher level of intelligence being achieved.