Why Am I More Productive At Night
“Daylight saves humanity from darkness and night is almost as old as humanity itself. But why are we more productive when it’s dark? Why do most animals sleep during the daylight hours? Is there any evolutionary benefit for being more active at night than during the day? And how does your circadian clock affect your work habits?
There has been some speculation about this topic over the years, but now a new study published in Current Biology provides evidence on why humans may become more productive at night. The research was conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF).
The scientists studied two groups of healthy men and women between the ages of 18-30. One group had an average age of 23 and the other group had an average age of 25. Both groups were asked to wear a device called an actigraphy monitor around their waist for one week. This device takes measurements of movement once every 30 seconds throughout the day. It then sends these data to computers so they can be analyzed.
Both groups wore the monitors under standard laboratory conditions with no restrictions. They also took part in experiments involving cognitive tests where they had to complete simple tasks like reading words or numbers out loud while seated. These sessions lasted approximately 1 hour each.
After analyzing all of this data, the researchers found that both men and women became significantly less active after waking up in the morning until noon. Afternooners tended to stay active longer into the evening whereas night owls got active earlier in the evening.
Dr. Michael Breus, lead author of the paper and researcher at UCSF, says this trend toward more activity in the late afternoon is something that many people experience. He says that “”night people”” tend to wake up later in the morning and get going later in the day.
This makes sense if you think about it. In general, humans don’t want to waste too much time sleeping. We’d rather use our extra time productively. Dr. Breus points out that night people often feel tired after working all day, especially if they’ve spent those hours writing papers or doing computer programming. But if they go to bed right after work, they’ll only have a few short hours before having to start their next day. That would make them even more likely to procrastinate and not accomplish what they wanted to do.
On the other hand, daytime people spend their extra time getting things done.
One theory that explains why night people are more active in the evening is based upon the fact that night people have a higher core body temperature in the afternoon. According to Dr. Breus, this happens because the hormone melatonin tells the brain to release cortisol and increase blood pressure. Cortisol causes your blood vessels to constrict and raise blood pressure. Your heart rate increases as well. This results in heat production by your muscles and skin.
So why does your body produce more heat in the afternoon? Because most mammals’ brains release melatonin at night. Melatonin acts on the pineal gland to suppress its production of serotonin. Serotonin is known to cause drowsiness. Therefore, since it’s harder for us to fall asleep in the afternoon, our bodies need to create additional heat to keep us awake.
Another theory suggests that night people simply just prefer to work at night. The authors of the current study say that night owls tend to choose jobs that require little interaction with others. Jobs such as bookkeeping and accounting are easier to do at night when everyone else is sleeping. Computer programmers, who typically code at night, may find themselves wanting to continue coding long past midnight.
As far as why night people become more productive in the evening, Dr. Breus believes it has to do with the way our brains function. The hormones leptin and ghrelin tell our brains whether we should eat or go to sleep. If you’re trying to lose weight, you might be tempted to skip meals and avoid exercise so that you can save calories. However, that will result in your brain thinking that you should be eating and exercising more frequently. On the other hand, if you’re trying to focus, you could take extra care to eat balanced meals and engage in regular exercise. Then your brain will reward you for staying focused. So try taking control of your diet and exercise routine instead of letting your brain force you to do so.
To learn more about sleep disorders, circadian rhythms and related topics, check out the links below.”