Not an Early Bird? Science Says Night Owls Are Smarter!

Night owls of the world can once again hold their heads up high!

It appears proof that late-night grinders and noon-time risers might just have a mental edge over the likes of the Dwayne Johnson’s of the world who like to get up ahead of the first rooster that crows in the morning.

This information has been around for a while, though I think it’s been drowned out by all the “get up early and seize the day” hype that’s been circulating throughout the self improvement scene on YouTube, Instagram, and other social media platforms over the years.

This is good news for everyone, including Tim Ferriss who famously works into the early hours of the morning writing his books, planning blogposts, and harassing high performers via email to do his podcast.

Night owls like Tim Ferriss are smarter for a very good reason.

There’s a whole mess of proof to back up this reality too:

Satoshi Kanazawa’s Adolescent Study

Kanazawa is a Psychologist who undertook a study back in 2009 to assess the intelligence of nearly 21,000 middle school and high school students. They were randomly selected from a pool of students from 132 different schools. An intelligence test was taken on all the individual participants, though none were asked anything about their sleep habits at the time.

Five years later, nearly three-quarters of the original subjects were once again interviewed and intelligence tests were given. At this time, Kanazawa asked the students, several of which were now in early adulthood, what their sleep habits were.

The results? 

The night owls in the group tended to score better on the intelligence tests. This, regardless of demographics such as race, education level, or religious beliefs. He believed this to be a product of evolution, as our ancestors often weren’t afforded the luxury of choosing whether to stay up late and sleep past sun-up in most cases.

University of Madrid Study

This study out of the University of Madrid analysed the sleep patterns and overall intelligence of over 1,000 students. They found that only 1 in 4 students could be classified as “early risers”. Thirty-three percent of those students could be labelled as “night owls”. The rest were classed as “in-between” which I assumes means the remaining students lead unstructured lives with respect to their sleep patterns.

The student’s grades were accounted for in the study, as were the results of a battery of intelligence tests.

The results?

Researchers found the night owls scored higher with respect to inductive reasoning. A major marker in predicting intelligence. Strangely, the night owls in the group tended to have lower grades, presumably because they weren’t able to function as well as the early birds in class due to the early morning nature of school.

This study put a different spin on Kanazawa’s evolutionary theory on night owls and increased intelligence. They felt that nocturnal people grow up to be more intelligent because night owls in general have always been more inquisitive — especially in ancient times where the vast majority of people would have already been in bed at that time and only the most curious minds would have bothered to stay up.

Image Credit: Stuart Richards/Flickr

Studies on Sleep Requirements and Alertness: Night Owls vs. Early Risers

I’ll finish my attempt to convince you to stay up later and sleep til the wee hours of the afternoon, by citing a few studies that show night owls are proven to thrive on less sleep and be more alert during their waking hours.

  • Swiss and Belgian researchers found that early risers required more than 7 hours of sleep to stay alert during the day. Night owls continued to thrive throughout their day when limited to only 7 hours of sleep, deducing they need less sleep than early birds to stay alert and productive.
  • Newsweek cites this study out of the University of Liege in of Belgium that found that while both early birds and night owls were alert when they woke up, the early risers had a lower attention span 10.5 hours after waking. The night owls did not suffer from this issue.

I don’t know about you, but these and many other studies conducted by respected researchers and research institutions really makes me question why I drag my butt out of bed so early in the morning every day. If nothing else, modern research is saying that it’s okay to sleep on a schedule that makes you feel your best — not because you feel pressured by the whole “early bird gets the worm” dogma that’s impossible to avoid on the Internet and social media.

Which Type of Sleep Personality Are You?

Early bird or night owl?

Will this information lead you to change your current sleep schedule, or not?

Main Image Credit: Anne Helmond/Flickr