Stay up too late? Bet You’re Intelligent

I can’t seem to do it. I need to get to bed before midnight.

“I’m going to sleep early. I’m going to sleep early. I’m going to sleep early,” I tell myself throughout the day, trying to remind my working mind how I felt when I woke up this morning. But when 12 a.m. roles around, Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography sounds a lot more interesting to me than getting some sleep.

I’m not alone. Many people deal with the same habit. The question is: is it a bad habit?

I struggle with going to sleep and waking up at around the same time each day… I think it’s because I enjoy the peace and quiet of a late night. Staying up late gives you more time to indulge on self-improvement including meditation, writing, reading, and simply relaxing among other things.

I feel as though I can be more productive during the wee hours of the night. That’s just me: a nightowl, someone who can preoccupy his or herself with a million things before going to sleep. If you fall into this category, you might partake in one of the following:

  1. Get hooked on a series. Nextflix has made it all too easy for us to get distracted episode after episode. And this is even harder for documentary-watchers out there. We enjoy watching a series that allows us to learn, making it more difficult to curb our inspirational kick in order to get in bed.
  2. Work on your personal side work. We all have things we want to create or be a part of that are outside of our normal routine. I often get the urge late at night to find new leads for the podcast or write a short piece. Our side work provides a sense of individual responsibility outside of our work life. It’s a getaway.
  3. Find a great bookIt’s the ultimate way to fill your head with hundreds of ideas before you try to going to sleep. Now, I’m a slow-reader, but I love reading more than anything. It has provided me with tools I can’t seem to find anywhere else but between those pages. Learning new concepts and ideas guides me to focus on invention and forces me out of the sleep mindset.

I’m not sure I want to accept the fact that I am a nightowl, but it doesn’t seem to be the worst thing. Nightowls set themselves apart…

A scientific study by evolutionary psychologist Kanazawa and Perina (2009) reveals why some are more inclined to stay awake later than others. Their finding: more intelligent people tend to engage in nocturnal activities. Granted, there are still some limitations to the study. Intelligence is measured in terms of Verbal Intelligence (VI) rather than General Intelligence (GI) due to the fact that there is no direct measure of GI; however, the two are highly correlated. That is to say, Kanazawa and Perina’s findings are not to be discounted.

Those who stay up later engage in a phenomenon which differs from that of our ancestral environment. Our ancestors began the day at dawn and went to sleep shortly after dusk. Other than visiting with each other as they drifted off to sleep soon after sunset, they didn’t take part in additional activities at night. This is where Kanazawa and Perina believe intelligence comes into play…

Because evidence of traditional societies suggests that our ancestors’ lifestyle revolved around daylight activities, nocturnal activities may be considered unconventional in an evolutionary sense. Hence the intelligent aspect… Those who stayed up later than their peers got ahead, acquiring evolutionary values that set them apart.

I might add (in a non-scientific manner) that the optimistic tend to stay up a little later than others… we think we can accomplish more if we stay up late, which is true to a certain extent. We just have to remember not to give up tomorrow’s productivity for tonight’s curiosity.

In today’s world, there are those who stay awake to get ahead and those who stay awake for no good reason at all. If you’re going to forfeit earlier bedtimes, make sure you’re part of the former, because sleep matters!

A journal article from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School (2008) explains,

“Although scientists have just begun to identify the connections between insufficient sleep and disease, most experts have concluded that getting enough high-quality sleep may be as important to health and well-being as nutrition and exercise.”

The study goes on to illustrate possible side-effects of lack of sleep including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension, poor immune function, and the common cold.

So think before you start that next chapter in your book at 12AM, and try not to justify you’re decision. Thinking you’ll catch up on sleep the following night never seems to work…

“Well, if I just sleep a little better tonight then I won’t be as tired in the morning.”

*Takes melatonin*

*Sleeps an hour and a half past the alarm*

This is too much of a problem for some. Many of us HAVE to be up at a certain time.

Because I still struggle with this myself, I’m trying to fix it. So we’ll have to see what ends up working. But honestly, just begin if you want to. Put down the book. Put down the phone. Turn off the TV. Roll over, and go to sleep.

Or just continue to stay up late and feed your curiosity like I may. We’ll see…


Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. (2008). The Hidden Costs of Insufficient Sleep.
Kanazawa, S. & Perina, K. (2009). Why night owls are more intelligent. Elsevier, 47.
Bed Picture.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *