How your bedtime affects your productivity

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Stuart Fogel's research shed light on how a person's daily rhythm and activity levels during both wake and sleep relate to human intelligence. Fogel is a cognitive neuroscientist, professor at the University of Ottawa's School of Psychology, and researcher at the Royal Institute for Mental Health Research. Previous research indicates that evening types, or "owls," have greater verbal intelligence, contradicting the proverb "the early bird gets the worm."

Yet, "once your 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," says Stuart Fogel, Director of the University of Ottawa Sleep Research Laboratory.

"This outcome was surprising to us and signals this is much more complicated than anyone thought before." By observing biological rhythms and everyday preferences, Fogel's team was able to determine a person's chronotype--their morning or evening proclivities. The time of day a person prefers to perform demanding activities, such as intellectual or physical endeavors, is related to their chronotype.

Young people tend to be "evening types," but elderly people and those who are more ingrained in their daily or nightly routines are probably "morning types." For young individuals, especially school-aged children and adolescents, whose schedules are dictated by their morning-type parents and their routines, morning is crucial. This might be detrimental to children.

"A lot of school start times are not determined by our chronotypes but by parents and work schedules, so school-aged kids pay the price of that because they are evening types forced to work on a morning type schedule," says Fogel.

"For example, math and science classes are normally scheduled early in the day because whatever morning tendencies they have will serve them well. But the AM is not when they are at their best due to their evening-type tendencies. Ultimately, they are disadvantaged because the type of schedule imposed on them is basically fighting against their biological clock every day."

Volunteers from a wide age range were recruited for the study, and they underwent stringent screening to rule out sleep problems and other confounding variables. They equipped volunteers with a monitoring system to gauge their levels of activity.

According to Fogel, determining a person's rhythm's strength--which fuels intelligence--and taking into account their age and actual bedtime is vital to comprehending the conclusions of this nuanced study.

"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," added Fogel.