Wednesday Nov 30, 2022
While popular culture often portrays highly intellectual and intelligent people as night owls working all night, a recent study has suggested otherwise.
Movie scenes of an author writing all night or a scientist pulling an all-nighter to solve equations might not be as accurate as we like to believe.
A study by a team of researchers from the University of Ottawa has shown the opposite of what prior studies have shown. Previous research suggests that night owls tend to score better on verbal intelligence.
“Once you account for key factors including bedtime and age, we found the opposite to be true, that morning types tend to have the superior verbal ability,” said Stuart Fogel, Director of the University of Ottawa Sleep Research Laboratory, in a university release.
“This outcome was surprising to us and signals this is much more complicated than anyone thought before.”
The latest study, published in Current Research in Behavioral Sciences, offers insight into the effects of an individual's daily routine, rhythm and activity levels at different times of the day on intelligence, and not just health.
The experts recruited volunteers for the studies and noted their chronotypes, which is the tendency of a person to either be active in the morning or the evening. They monitored the biological rhythms of each participant and their daily preferences as well.
A chronotype shows when a person likes to pursue challenging or important tasks of the day including both intellectual activities and physical exercise.
Usually, younger people are the "evening types" and older people tend to prefer the morning for their work. This is ironic because the entire education system is built on teaching children and demanding energy from them during the morning hours.
Fogel explained that schools do not consider chronotypes when deciding on the start time of the institute. The timings are decided in accordance with the work schedules of parents.
"So school-aged kids pay the price of that because they are evening types forced to work on a morning type schedule,” Fogel said.
“For example, math and science classes are normally scheduled early in the day because whatever morning tendencies they have will serve them well."
However, morning might not be the best for children that are naturally the evening type. Fogel believes that those children are "disadvantaged because the type of schedule imposed on them is basically fighting against their biological clock every day.”
The team of scientists studied volunteers from a wide range of age groups. They made sure to rule out any sleep disorders or other health conditions that could confound the results. To measure their activity levels, researchers made the participants wear a monitoring device.
The authors believe that it is crucial to establish the strength of a person's rhythm because that is what they think drives intelligence.
“Our brain really craves regularity and for us to be optimal in our own rhythms is to stick to that schedule and not be constantly trying to catch up,” Fogel concluded.