September 07, 2017

Nocturnal Night Owls: What We Should Know About Them

There is more to people who live a nocturnal lifestyle than we might think. Find out what advantages they have, how you can use it to your benefit, and if it has anything to do with genetics.

Why is it that some people spring out of bed with no trouble each morning, while others complain about getting up early is the hardest part of the day? Is it just the way we are? Is it a conditioned habit? Or could it be something else? Something more? Most of us know about the early morning battle. That it's often to do with a lack of sleep than a real penchant for nocturnality. But there are, however, others who seem more naturally inclined to the 'night owl' lifestyle. While an inclination to be awake late at night can certainly have its pitfalls; it can also prove to have many advantages. In fact, while some may oppose the nocturnal lifestyle research suggests there are a number of benefits. In this article, we'll uncover the hidden benefits, as-well-as drawbacks, and explore some of the arguments surrounding the night owl lifestyle.

The Nocturnal Advantage

Night owls may suffer somewhat when required to break from their preferred nocturnal schedules, but they do have some advantages. Nocturnal people, for instance, have the innate ability to cope better with changes in their schedule. In fact, studies have shown that nocturnal individuals are more likely able to function on less sleep. Whereas, an early bird may find it difficult to stay up late—even for a one-off occasion. Nocturnal individuals also tend to be better at maintaining concentration for longer periods throughout the day. In other words, generally, it takes longer for Nocturnals to become fatigued, many hours after waking than their early-rising counterparts.

The Downside

It's not all good news, unfortunately. In an article published on The University of Berkeley News, based on a study of students, Yasmin Anwar states, "Teenagers who go to bed late during the school year are more prone to academic and emotional difficulties in the long run." Of course, this is in large part due to modern society on the whole calling for people to be awake at the same time. It's therefore, normal for most schools and businesses to operate on similar schedules. So, from an operational point of view, this makes sense. Generally, this means everyone can rely on working together—particulary at certain times of the day. How does this affect nocturnally inclined students and employees who need to be up early in the morning? Well, it means they're likely going to find it difficult to perform well if they're going to sleep after midnight.

Are Nocturnal People More Intelligent?

The notion of whether or not night owls are generally 'smarter' than everyone else is one of the modern debates surrounding the habits of nocturnal people. Some studies and publications have made the sweeping statement that nocturnal people are more intelligent and have a higher IQ than their diurnal (day-rising) counterparts. While there's little evidence to prove this, research  such as The 'Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis' and anecdotes alike, "predict that more intelligent individuals are more likely to be nocturnal than less intelligent individuals"

Why Might this Be?

The cause may stem from late-rising individuals who prefer to pursue careers with more flexibility. Some people, for instance, such as musicians, writers, and entrepreneurs, tend to live a nocturnal kind of lifestyle to carry out their work. Supporting this theory, research published in the Journal Personality and Individual Differences have put forward the idea that those who are naturally inclined to nocturnal habits tend to be more open to new and novel experiences. They also suggest that nocturnal people tend to have inquisitive minds which often breed deeper thought. Although more empirical work is required to test the hypothesis, this could be good news if you live a nocturnal lifestyle.

Is Being Nocturnal Genetic?

Many health professionals theorize that such nocturnal preferences are mostly genetic. A look back into human history provides some understanding. For instance, in less forgiving times, when day-to-day survival was the primary concern for cave-dwelling humans living alongside fearsome beasts, it made sense for there to be a mixture of night owls and early birds. If for example, everyone were asleep at the same time, then no one would be awake to keep watch over settlements, belongings, and each other during the night. Edward Claro Mader also makes a good point in a Quora post about nocturnals and genetics. Edward states that, if we look closely at clock genes and extrinsic factors, "it is the complex interplay between nature and nurture that will ultimately determine whether one ends up as a night owl, as an early bird."

See also: 7 Strategies on How to Become an Early Riser.

To Be, Or Not To Be

Upon examination, it's clear, early birds and night owls each have certain advantages and disadvantages in life. Based on our human history, understandably, a mix of both was necessary for survival. But, in this day and age, such need is no longer required. If you tend to live a nocturnal lifestyle and want to learn how to become an early riser, then, there are certainly ways to help you adapt. Otherwise, if you think you've just got the "after-hours-gene" then don't be too concerned. Granted, night owls do often have to suffer for the sake of a world that prefers to rise early. But thankfully, however, as a nocturnal, you also carry some cognitive advantages that give You an edge in life.