Society tells us we should work while the sun is out and sleep after the sun sets. That’s the way societies have functioned for thousands of years. However, there are millions of people whose bodies don’t naturally operate on that exact sleep cycle.
Rather than going to bed early and waking up as the sun rises, these night owls work best long after moonrise. Some people view this as a problem, and they may think people who sleep the day away are unconventional or maybe even lazy.
But the truth is, there’s nothing wrong with burning the midnight oil.
We’re not lazy, and we’re not wasteful. We simply work best once everyone has gone to bed. And that’s okay because science is on our side.
1. Night Owls Have ‘Extra Time’ In Their Day
Technically, everyone has a 24-hour day. Most people wake at 6 a.m., go about their day, and are in bed by 11 p.m. However, that’s when most night owls are at their peak time. Many night owls might very well wake up at a reasonable time. But they may stay up until 3:00 a.m. Researchers in Belgium and Switzerland found that night owls need less sleep than early risers, so they can take advantage of the extra hours to accomplish more tasks.
2. Night Owls Tend To Be More Creative
Plenty of research supports the idea that night owls are more creative than their morning counterparts. Some famous creative night owls include James Joyce, Charles Darwin and Marcel Proust. One theory about creative people being drawn to night dates back to the time of our ancestors. It was thought that nighttime was a forbidden time, making it almost novel and attractive to inquisitive people.
3. Night Owls Can Get More Work Done With Fewer Distractions
Traditional working hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, night owls tend to accomplish more productive tasks later in the evening instead of during the typical working hours. The benefit of this is that there are less distractions available — except for the occasional YouTube video, of course — because they work at a time of day when most people are asleep. And, by passing up the evening libation to help them fall asleep like many early birds, the night owls are getting a better night’s sleep.
4. Night Owls Remain Alert Longer
A common misconception is that night owls are lazy and lethargic. However, studies prove the opposite is true. In one study led by Christina Schmidt and Philippe Peigneux of the University of Liege in Belgium, extreme early birds and extreme night owls were tested on how well they maintained focus throughout the day. The early risers lost focus about ten hours after waking up while the night owls were able to keep going throughout the entire time.
5. Night Owls Can Work Better Under Pressure
We’ve always been told that procrastination is bad and we shouldn’t wait until the last minute to finish things. But night owls actually benefit from this added pressure. Night owls can feel recharged after working during the day, often getting late-night energy boosts that help them get their work done.
6. Night Owls Benefit from ‘Night Strength’
While night owls aren’t stronger than early birds, they do have more strength in the evening than the early risers, according to researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada. The study found that evening people experience a peak in strength in the evening, meaning late-night workouts are better for them than morning routines. Morning people, on the other hand, don’t have any clear time of day where their strength is greater.
7. Night Owls Are More Adaptive With Sleep Cycles
Unfortunately for night owls, we live in a diurnal world, meaning society frowns upon our late to bed, late to rise routines, instead preferring us to rise with the sun. In the book Sleepfaring: A Journey Through the Science of Sleep, author Jim Horne notes that early risers have a tougher time adapting to a late-night schedule than night owls adapting to an early schedule.
8. Night Owls Take More Risks
It turns out your affinity to staying up late can affect the amount of risks you take. A study completed by a University of Chicago professor showed that people who stayed up later took part in more risks. While the study focused on night owls tendency toward relationship risks, the science shows that those who stay up later are more willing to take chances than those who go to sleep earlier. Taking risks isn’t bad by any means — many say you get to appreciate life more by taking risks.
Being a night owl doesn’t mean you’re an insomniac, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re lazy. Staying up late has its benefits. In addition to working without constant distractions from other people, you’re able to stay alert and use your natural creativity to your advantage. While we can adapt to a typical routine, we’re in our prime when the sun is gone and the stars are out.