Early Birds Read Less Big Words

The Winnipeg Press recently published the headline that I longed to see throughout my teenage years. “Smart People Sleep Late.” Research released by the London School of Economics and Political Science suggests that people with higher IQ’s tend to be night-owls and those with lower IQ’s favour early mornings and other deviant behaviour.

So, the early birds do indeed get the worms and late-risers are smart enough to grab a coffee and the newspaper. This is what I have been saying for years, biased admittedly by my own tendency to arise Kraken-cranky and bleary-eyed about noon and faff about all day, before deciding that 10.00pm is an excellent time to start any work. It’s not that I am lazy, I’m just manifesting my superior intelligence. Honest.

I would have loved to see this article when I was in my teens. My parents had a habit of pointing out headlines to me, such as “Severe Studiousness Linked to Popularity with Boys” and “Not Listening To Your Mother Gives You Spots.”

But by far the most frequent of their complaints was my habit of sleeping in. My father would belt on my bedroom door at the highly unfashionable time of noon or so and shout all sorts of things about the day being half over as I tried to sleep through the banging.

This may not, to be fair, have been due to my stratospherically high IQ, but to my habit of reading long after the point at which the lights should have gone out. I even had the bedside lamp arranged so the switch could be inserted in my book as a page marker.

I keep reading all these articles that say bed should be a sacred place where you do nothing but sleep. But as far as I am concerned one of the best bits of the day is when you get to settle in snug under the duvet and pick up a book, safe in the knowledge that there is nothing left to distract you from reading.

Reading books in bed is one of life’s great joys and is one of the few pleasures that isn’t either illegal, immoral or fattening. And apparently being a “just one more page” person means you are an evolutionary trailblazer. Preferring to go to bed late (or, as the researchers put it, demonstrating “eveningness”; a word clearly thought up by someone who likes to get up at 4am) is an “evolutionarily novel preference” demonstrating “a higher level of cognitive complexity”.

And it’s not just smart, it’s ergonomic. Falling asleep in a book is surprisingly comfy even if it does lead to you waking up the next day with streams of random texts printed on your skin. (Nothing like the feeling where you realise that hot guy isn’t checking you out, he’s reading scraps of Mark Dapin off your forehead, and you have to pray it’s not the bits with lots of swearing.) An inability to put down that page-turner can make you a bit sluggish the next day, it’s true, but now you can brandish this article at your boss and tell them that your sleepy worst is clearly better than their early-morning best.

Let me know how this goes if you try it.

It’s not all good news for late-night readers. In fact, it might not be “news” at all. Dodgy surveys and cherry-picking lines from science studies for popular news tends to lead to all sorts of hilarity. “Blogs More Popular Than Booty, Study Finds” is my favourite send-up of what is a common practise on a slow news day. “This <sex versus internet> survey was conducted online. And, let’s face it — the kind of people sitting around and opting to fill out online surveys about how much they value sex probably aren’t getting much to begin with.”

And some studies – gasp – have even opined that us evolutionarily-forward night owls “less reliable, less emotionally stable and more apt to suffer from depression, addictions and eating disorders”. Well, I will admit sometime I bring a snack to eat while I read, and the cookie crumbs in the sheets can lead to a cranky night’s sleep.

But those studies, and their accompanying articles, aren’t the ones I will be sending my parents. Who, amusingly enough, since their retirement have started sleeping in later and reading more. So there’s hope for all the morning people out there. As well as probably about a thousand studies proving me wrong.

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Sadhbh Warren

Sadhbh Warren is a freelance writer and proud booklover. Her name is pronounced Sive - like five – an Irish name, easier to say than spell! She lives in Sydney, writing travel and humour articles, and is always on the lookout for a great new book.

2 thoughts on “Early Birds Read Less Big Words”

  1. I used to frequently read in bed for so long that my backside would go numb, even nestled happily into my soft, lovely mattress. I never seem to get the time, anymore, alas. If I wind up in bed while still in a wakeful sort of state, I tend to quickly get distracted by attractive diversions. 😉


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