Are morning people smarter? Early risers have higher verbal intelligence, contradicting previous studies

Are morning people smarter? Early risers have higher verbal intelligence, contradicting previous studies

OTTAWA — Highly intelligent people are often portrayed as night owls. The dedicated novelist writes all night until dawn, for example. While previous studies actually support this notion, finding that night owls tend to show more stable verbal intelligence, new research from the University of Ottawa suggests otherwise.

It turns out that the early bird does get the (verbal) worm.

“After accounting for key factors including bedtime and age, we found that the opposite was true, that morning types tended to have superior verbal ability,” says Stuart Vogel, director of the University of Ottawa’s Sleep Research Laboratory, in a university edition. “This result was surprising to us and signals that this is much more complex than anyone previously thought.”

This latest research from Canada provides much-needed insight into how the impact of a person’s daily rhythm and activity levels on waking and sleeping refers to intelligence.

The research team identified the participants’ chronotypes (evening or morning trends) by monitoring their biological rhythms and daily preferences. An individual’s chronotype relates to when during the day they prefer to pursue or perform demanding or important tasks, from intellectual pursuits to exercise.

Generally, younger people tend to “evening species,”, while older individuals and those who are more regularly engaged in their daily/nightly activities are more often “morning types”. ironically, in the morning it is usually a critical time for young people, especially those still attending school.

“A lot of school start times aren’t determined by our chronotypes, but by parents and work schedules, so school-age kids pay the price for that because they’re evening types forced to work a morning-type schedule,” Vogel explains. “For example, math and science classes are usually scheduled early in the day because whatever morning tendencies they have will serve them well. But the morning is not when they are at their best because of their evening-type tendencies. Ultimately, they are at a disadvantage because the type of schedule they are forced into basically works against their biological clock every day.”

This study used volunteers representing a wide variety of age groups. All subjects were rigorously screened to exclude sleep disorders and any other possible confounding factors. Subjects wore a monitoring device to measure their activity levels.

Vogel explains that establishing the power of a person’s rhythm that drives intelligence is key to understanding this research. The study authors point to a person’s age and actual bedtime as important factors. “Our brains really crave regularity, and to be optimal in our own rhythm, we need to stick to that schedule, not constantly trying to catch up,” he concludes.

The study was published in Current Research in the Behavioral Sciences.

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