Benjamin Franklin wrote the famous phrase, “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” His viewpoint sounds nice, and his own personal success gives his advice some strong support. However, now night owls and researchers alike would beg to differ.
During the last few decades, there’s a growing body of fascinating research on the relationship between sleep patterns and intelligence. While there is still more to learn, scientists have made great progress into what it means when your head hits the pillow. One study of U.S. Air Force recruits aimed to systematically explore the relationship between intelligence and sleep scheduling. After assessing the 420 participants, they discovered that night owls are more likely to have higher intelligence scores. They’re not saying that sleeping late makes you smarter, but a higher IQ leads to night owl tendencies.
Satoshi Kanazawa and Kaja Perinawas supplied more proof with their definitive study, “Why night owls are more intelligent,” in 2009. He and his team concluded, “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.” They analyzed the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and considered to explain why that’s the case.
Since then, other researchers have delved deeper and looked into different populations to learn more. One team of scientists from The University of Chicago and Northwestern University analyzed GMAT scores from MBA students in 2014. They discovered that GMAT scores were significantly higher among night owls than among early-morning types for both men and women. Yet more support for smarty-pants night owls.
People, unlike other mammals, have the unique power to override their genetic predisposition and circadian rhythm. With the help of electric lights, caffeine, alarm clocks, and more, they can train or force themselves into morning lark or night owl schedules, which Kanazawa and Perinawas’s study suggests is a sign of intelligence as well.
If you need more proof, simply look to some of the most famous night owls who happen to be well known for their intellect, among many other accomplishments. The list includes President Obama, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, James Joyce, and many more. Generally, being a morning person is heralded, but identifying as a night owl is not without its perks or good company.
As for morning people, the early bird still gets the worm, at least as far as we know. However, night owls everywhere rejoice late into the night, then smugly hit the snooze button the next day.