It’s been said that early birds get the worm, but night owls also reap a whole lot of benefits just by being who they are. And it’s time they got some praise.
Please don’t get us wrong: We are definitely sleep advocates. And it is very important for you to make sure that you get the right amount of sleep (seven to nine hours for the average adult) every single day in order to stay healthy. This is not permission to stay up late and skimp on sleep. But if your lifestyle can allow for a later wake time, you might feel inclined to stay up a bit later, too.
While there has been a lot of praise for being a morning person (those health benefits are real and very good), there hasn’t been much to tout the perks of being someone who works best at night. Behold — an ode to those who love to burn the midnight oil.
1. Night owls might have a higher IQ.
Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary scientist at the London School of Economics and Political Science, found a connection between intelligence and adaptive behaviors that are “evolutionarily novel” — meaning they deviate from what our ancestors did. He wrote that “routine nocturnal activities were probably rare in the ancestral environment and are thus evolutionarily novel.” The study concluded 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.”
Yet, while night owls may have a higher IQ, those who wake up in the morning may be in a better position for success. Christoph Randler, a biology professor at the University of Education in Heidelberg, asked 367 students about the time of day they felt most active. Randler found that “a higher percentage of the morning people agreed with statements that indicate proactivity.”
2. They also benefit from having “night strength.”
Night owls may have a physical advantage over early birds. Researchers at the University of Alberta tested the leg strength of nine morning people and nine night people and found that the early birds’ strength remained consistent throughout the day, but night owls’ strength peaked to higher levels at night. Olle Lagerquist, the co-author of the study, told CNN that the reason for this may be because at around 9 p.m., evening types “show increased motor cortex and spinal cord excitability.”
3. People who work at night appear to be more creative.
Researchers from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan found that night people are more likely to develop original and creative solutions to problems than morning people. Marina Giampietro, the lead author of the study, hypothesizes that night owls might be more creative because staying up late “may encourage the development of a non-conventional spirit and of the ability to find alternative and original solutions.”
4. Night owls score higher on general intelligence tests.
Researchers at the University of Madrid released a study last year that looked at the sleeping patterns of around 1,000 teens. The study found that night owls scored higher on inductive reasons tests, which is related to general intelligence, than their morning bird counterparts. But, the same study also found that morning birds get better grades.
5. They’re in good company. After all, even the president of the United States is a night owl.
In 2009, President Obama told Newsweek that he likes to stay up late and says that even when he’s done working, he stays up even later reading.
I’m a night owl. My usual day [is]: I work out in the morning; I get to the office around 9, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; work till about 6:30 p.m.; have dinner with the family, hang out with the kids and put them to bed about 8:30 p.m. And then I’ll probably read briefing papers or do paperwork or write stuff until about 11:30 p.m., and then I usually have about a half hour to read before I go to bed … about midnight, 12:30 a.m. — sometimes a little later.
6. Night owls can remain mentally alert for more hours after waking up than early birds.
A 2009 study by the University of Liege in Belgium monitored 15 “extreme night owls” and 16 “extreme early birds” and had participants stay on their normal sleeping schedules. Researchers measured their brain activity after participants first woke up, and then once again 10.5 hours later. The study found that participants scored similarly on the first test, but that “10.5 hours after waking up, the early birds had lower activity in brain regions linked to attention and the circadian master clock, compared to night owls.”
7. There’s a group called “The Night Owl Society” dedicated to creative freelancers who stay up at night.
Von Glitschka, an illustrative designer, says he created “The Night Owl Society” after working for 12 years as a “creative hired gun” for agencies across the globe and noticing that he, and many other designers like him, work so much better at night. “I enjoy the solace and the uninterrupted aspect of working late at night,” Glitschka wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. “I know many other creatives like me, and this was an excuse to share our work online through a Facebook group and recognize each other.”
The society’s manifesto on Glitschka’s website sums up who they are pretty aptly:
Our nocturnal tribe soars at midnight. We are the night owls -– whose pixels, presses, polygons and projects flourish best under obsidian skies.
Fellow night owls can sign up for a membership, and upon being inducted, will receive a “Night Owl Creative Pack” that includes a sketch pad, a set of keyboard characters and a membership certificate among other things. They will also get access to “The Night Owl Society” Facebook page.
All images courtesy of Getty unless otherwise indicated.
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