Recent evidence shows that people who thrive at night have higher IQs. Early risers beg to differ
Are you the type who stays up late to finish your work, or do you get up early to make a fresh start on the day? If it’s the former, you may be pleased to learn new research has found that those with higher IQs tend to be nocturnal night-owls. But if it’s the latter, you might have good reason to distrust the claim. Here’s an instant guide:
Is there solid science behind this finding?
Sleep researchers tend to divide people into two groups, explains zoologist Robert Alison in the Winnipeg Free Press, based on whether they exhibit “morningness” or “eveningness.” A recent study claims that eveningness is an evolutionary advancement that marks out “more intelligent individuals,” while “those with lower IQs tend to restrict their activities primarily to daytime.”
How can that be?
Researchers from the London School of Economics say that human beings used to all be day-oriented, and that eveningness is an “evolutionarily novel preference” made by people with “a higher level of cognitive complexity.” Basically, smart people evolve to stay up later.
I want to get more intelligent. Can I just start staying up late?
It isn’t that simple. Several studies have shown that your sleep preferences are at least 50 percent genetic, and that your chronotype — that is, the time of day you are at your physical and mental peak — changes with your age. Generally speaking, “eveningness” peaks in the late teens and early 20s.
Are there any downsides to “eveningness”?
Night owls tend to be less reliable, more emotionally unstable, and more likely to have problems with addictions and eating disorders, according to a 2008 study by psychologist Marina Giamnietro. They are also more likely to drink alcohol and smoke, says Dutch psychiatrist Walter van den Broek at his Dr. Shock blog. Another study found that undergrad “evening types” had lower GPAs than those who awake early in the morning.
Is there any advantage to being a morning person?
Early risers tend to be more conscientious, persistent, and apt to cooperate, says van den Broek, a self-described morning person. They also “cope better with academic requirements and receive better grades.” And when you think about it, adds Ace Burpee in the Winnipeg Free Press, “there are no sayings about late birds getting some sort of way better tasting worm.”