There is something magical about the night. When we are out and about, we immerse ourselves in a colorful world in which it sometimes seems as if everything is suddenly possible. Under the cover of darkness, we suddenly dare to do things that would seem completely absurd to us during the day – dancing in the rain, kissing our crush for the first time, jumping naked into the lake in the moonlight. At least when we’re doing well. It is also true that suicide rates rise at night, more violent acts are committed and we get lost in negative thought loops more quickly.

But why is it that after midnight we take worries and fears more seriously – and at the same time feel freer and more carefree than during the day? Scientists have also asked themselves this again and again. A popular theory about our sometimes strange behavior at night describes the so-called “mind after midnight phenomenon”.

An American research team led by Andrew S. Tubbs from the University of Arizona used this term for the first time in an article in the journal “Frontiers in Network Physiology”. The researchers have evaluated several studies and explain the phenomenon with a change in brain metabolism.

Accordingly, our prefrontal cortex – the area of ​​the brain that is responsible for our mind, among other things – switches down after midnight and only runs in a kind of energy-saving mode. Instead, the amygdala – our emotional center – becomes more active at night. That alone changes a lot, but our hormones also change when it gets dark. The increased release of the sleep hormone melatonin also reduces the release of happiness hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, and our cortisol levels, which are important for stress management, fall.

These far-reaching changes in the brain manifest themselves differently from person to person. However, the researchers agree that each of us works a little differently at night than during the day – we act more emotionally driven, make more rash decisions, fall into deep ruminations or suddenly have cravings. The latter is because the processes in the brain are more strenuous at night and we therefore need more energy. Because our impulse control is weaker at night, we usually don’t eat fruit or vegetables, but rather chocolate, ready meals or fast food.

The reduced signal transmission in the cerebral cortex after midnight is another factor that can change us. This caused “cognitive functions such as working memory, attention and the ability to solve problems” to deteriorate. This in turn could be an explanation for the increasing number of accidents at night. Statistically speaking, acts of violence and suicide also occur more frequently after midnight. According to the research team, anyone who tends to have negative thoughts should go to sleep before midnight.

But the nighttime atmosphere also has positive things in store for us. Feelings and experiences are perceived more intensely, our creativity increases and we are braver when it comes to new experiences. It’s not for nothing that we often like to remember eventful nights with our friends years later. But even these pleasures, according to scientists, should be enjoyed in moderation – because being awake too often at night promotes the development of psychological problems such as depression, anxiety disorders and paranoid thoughts.

Quellen:  Studie Mind after Midnight, Neuroscience News, Sleepeducation