Between the Sheets


The clock on your nightstand reads midnight. You know you should go to bed; you’ve got a lot of things to do tomorrow, and want to feel alert. All the same, your mind is active, coming up with creative ideas and looking for an outlet to express them. Finally, you give up, get out of bed, and end up working on your projects until 4AM. If this is your pattern, you might be a night owl.

Night owls are individuals whose natural circadian rhythms favor a nocturnal schedule. Age, genetic predisposition, and environment all factor in to whether a person thrives during late night hours. The downside of being a night person is readily advertised: they’re chronically late to work, dazed during morning classes or meetings, generally have more bad habits, and are often incapable of keeping a brunch date. But are there also superpowers that come with being a creature of the night?

You might be smarter

Most studies agree that night people have a slight intellectual edge. Psychologist Richard D. Roberts of the University of Sydney and Patrick C. Kyllonen of the Air Force Research Lab gave test subjects two different intelligence tests, measuring everything from vocational knowledge to memory and reading comprehension. The results favored night owls. Night owls outperformed early birds on most of the intelligence measures—with significant differences on working memory and processing speed. Test results were the same whether taken at night or in the earliest hours of morning.

A University of Madrid study had similar results. This research revealed that night owls have more intuitive intelligence, are better creative thinkers, and score higher on inductive reasoning. However, because school schedules tend to favor day people, night owls also generally receive lower grades than their day counterparts.

You might be sexier

Christoph Randler of University of Education Heidelberg in Germany, tested the sexual behavior of 284 male participants. Night people reported more partners overall, and this statistic was unchanged when controlled for age and extraversion. A separate study authored by Comparative Human Development professor Dario Maestripieri found that night people across the gender spectrum were more likely to be single and sexually active, or in short-term relationships. Night owls also boasted twice as many sex partners as early birds.

You might be stronger

A study from the University of Alberta tested the leg strength of night owls and early birds at different times of day. Morning people maintained the same level of strength throughout the day, while night people consistently demonstrated an evening burst of strength, due to increased motor cortex and spinal cord excitability at night. Early risers don’t experience this combination of variables. To challenge these results, study co-author Olle Lagerquist tested all subjects in the earliest hours of morning, and found results were unchanged.

You might be better prepared for parenthood

When it comes to parenthood, night owls have the advantage. A newborn that won’t sleep through the night is usually the first thing to set new parents on edge. Night people, however, are already awake and ready to tend to their late night needs. This behavior is not really a sleep interruption for night people, while day people wrestle with the fogginess and irritability that comes with a lack of sleep.

Many people consider being nocturnal a lonely affair, but being a night owl doesn’t mean you won’t find your flock. Night owls who thrive socially and emotionally prioritize work flexibility, an active nightlife, and belong to some of the numerous online communities populated by late-night creative types. They entertain clients and coworkers in the evenings, fit in a work out after work or school, and make plenty of time for hobbies. Being a night owl has many perks, even if you don’t get that early worm.

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