Why do some people find it easier to concentrate at night, and other people find it easier to concentrate during the day? Is this down to habit, or is it biological?

2 Answers

Melinda Moore Profile
Melinda Moore answered

The answer to your question is - surprisingly - both. This is apparently because your habits may have arisen because of your biology.

Recent research by Kanazawa and Perina, of The London School of Economics; University College, London and Birkbeck College, London has found that people who prefer to stay up late (presumably because that is when their concentration is better) demonstrate "a higher level of cognitive complexity".

Circadian rhythms appear to be an area in which individual preferences can take precedence over genetic predispositions, and humans are alone in being able to cognitively override their internal biological clock. 


Obviously, it is only through the availability of artificial light that we are able to choose to stay awake, and work all night if we want to - and so this behaviour might be viewed as being evolutionary.

Kanazawa and Perina wanted to find out if  intelligent individuals were more likely to "espouse novel evolutionary values" than less intelligent people, and their conclusion was as follows: 

...more intelligent individuals are more likely to be nocturnal than less intelligent individuals.

You can read the research paper in full, here.

However, while night owls like the ones featured in the Edward Hopper painting, Nighthawks, can possibly congratulate themselves on being cleverer than their early-bird friends and relatives, it's not all good news in the late-night camp.

Much appears to depend on whether you sleep for long enough each night (or day!), and whether your sleep is disturbed or not. 

For example, research has shown that sleep disturbance or deprivation can have more serious health effects than just the irritability and tiredness you might expect. 

Scientists at The University of Bristol conducted a study into the effect of sleep disturbance and shortage on volunteers, whose brains were scanned to observe the effects on their temporal lobes.

The temporal lobe plays a critical role in memory, and the brains of those who were most sleep-deprived had shrunk, leading both to worse memories, and to higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Apparently, past research has shown that the chronic high levels of cortisol which are often found in people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or from severe depression, cause shrinkage of the brain.

Getting less than eight hours' sleep is thought to lead to a lower I.Q. the next day, and those who work night shifts suffer an increased risk of ulcers and diabetes (as well as divorce!).

 Irregular sleeping patterns are also thought to lead to dangerously-high levels of glucose and fat in the blood, after meals.

So, if you're a night owl, and find that you concentrate better late in the wee small hours, I'm guessing that's fine - as long as you have a regular sleep pattern and make sure that you get eight hours' sleep a night (or day).

4 People thanked the writer.
Kathryn Wright
Kathryn Wright commented
Great answer. I normally get around 5 hours sleep a night. It is a good deep sleep though. 8 hours seems a lot of time to waste being asleep - still the negative effects on ones health, the ulcers and memory loss definitely resonate with me. I must try harder to sleep more (written at 2:18am - the irony!)
Melinda Moore
Melinda Moore commented
Ha, yes. The Blurtit night owls are out in force tonight!
Lily Bradic
Lily Bradic commented
This explains why I've got the memory of a floating goldfish, then. Not to mention the cortisol thing. BRILLIANT answer. Not sure how I'm supposed to feel about
, though!
Adila Adila Profile
Adila Adila answered

My Lord... *shakes head*. 

Right..first of all, I concentrate more at night, and I'm going to assume that it does have something to do with age. 

Younger people (like me) are more likely to stay up late and work due to their daily routines—we don't have to go to work in the morning, it's only school/college, so what responsibilites do we really have? Well, we do hold a few, that's the important thing.

Now allow me to explain. I find it easier to write an essay at night: I am most motivated in the evening, and this is covered by evidence that one is more likely to feel inspired and creative in the night. 

Why, I hear you ask? (Well, not really, but I guess you're wondering anyway)! It's because at night the brain may be sleepy but is still functioning better than it would be in the morning. 

See how moody people are in the mornings? Explains it all really. I am a Ninja , so therefore I never sleep anyway (even If I say I'm sleeping , I'M NOT). So what was I saying? 

Oh yes , we have learnt throughout the day, we have experienced, we have warmed up and so we are ready for the night, we are fired up! 

And like I said, young people obviously love the night—we can party and stay up and chat. Sleep is alien to those who lead exciting lives!

Now unfortunately , sleep is all I look forward to these days as the normal day just brings me nothing but deep sorrow. Some people struggle to sleep and therefore stay up and look for activities to occupy their time...I Hope I haven't bored the skin outta you peeps! XD

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