Being a “night owl” carries an inherent stigma. Aside from the conscious choice to stay awake late, insomnia and sleep disorders are associated with laziness or mental instability and are believed to deter a person’s productive capabilities.
Sleep is no joke to Western society–but within good reason. After all, one of America’s most esteemed innovators, Benjamin Franklin, first coined the expression, “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
Recent studies have shown, however, that this age-old mentality no longer reflects the productivity rates of modern lifestyles. In fact, some psychologists say that late risers are more intelligent.
Several studies corroborate such assessments, linking higher intelligence with nocturnal tendencies. A 2010 study by Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Political Science tested the relationship between the time people chose to sleep and the IQ scores they received. Those who slept latest often scored the highest.
Being more productive at night than during the day does not necessarily justify cramming the night before a crucial exam, but at least there is more research available now in the event justification is needed.
“Night Owl Syndrome” is known in the scientific community as Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS), and is quite common in young adults today. It’s a genetic predisposition for a number of people, meaning that their circadian rhythms naturally follow different schedules. If an individual still gets a healthy amount of REM sleep in the eight-hour ballpark, sleeping 3 a.m. to 11 a.m. is equivalent to the person who sleeps 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
In addition, while most doctors inform patients that sleeping late is detrimental to the body’s natural processes, only 10 percent of the most severe insomnia cases are reportedly caused by the night owl lifestyle.
Studies also show that while late sleepers tend to be more social and extroverted creatures, they are most creative and strategic when the day ends and they can be alone with their thoughts. Night owls tend to feel lethargic or drowsy during the day, which can affect their performances in traditionally day-oriented environments, like school or work.
The energy exerted during the day is also meant for logical and focused interpretation, whereas the inner genius comes out when the boundaries of sociability are removed. The more tired you are, the less ability you possess to control your thoughts–which is beneficial to the overall creativity of late sleepers.
By nature, night owls tend to be rebellious personality types. Staying up late is an unconventional way to assert independence, and the subconscious breaking of boundaries helps to keep minds curious and hungry for more. Some of the world’s greatest leaders have attributed their success to the freedoms offered by the boundlessness of the night.
Technology also influences our tendencies to sleep later.
Humans depend on light for navigation, sense of balance, and alertness. Where productivity was once limited by the sun setting, and darkness meant our bodies had to leave any business unfinished for the next day, iPhones or computer screens now occupy that lost time and push people to become more proactive at night.
With the aid of technology, night owls can comfortably and happily work on what they need to, when they need to.
The option to work via mobile or tablet while waiting for an overnight flight is a beautiful privilege we share in this day and age. But in some cases, using technology can also distract those who identify as night owls; deterring their ability to be productive.
Admit it–you’ve probably checked your phone in the middle of the night, even if there wasn’t much to see on your feed at 3 a.m. Take a second and also ask yourself if you woke up late the next morning.
So what exactly happens when chronic insomnia turns into chronic missing of early morning alarms? What is it like to be both a night owl and a subsequent late riser?
The Elite Daily found that those who stay up late then wake up even later are “actually ahead of everyone else… and less stressed.” This is because late risers manage to sleep until their bodies are completely refueled, whereas early-birds may just prematurely expend their energy.
Late risers will simply have more stamina than those who awaken at the crack of dawn, because they’re more likely to catch their second wind in the evening. It just becomes easier to manage social outings that way, too: the later one sleeps in, the later he or she can also stay awake to cater to post-work events, whereas an early-bird will probably be exhausted by the time they clock out.
Sure, it can be embarrassing if you’re perpetually late for class or work. But next time someone tells you it isn’t a smart move to sleep in, you can prove otherwise.
Feature photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.