Late nights suppress your drive + motivation |
In a nutshell, the science is in: Those late nights of burning the midnight oil (which includes any kind of late-night viewing of bright lights and screens) are going to stop your brain from releasing dopamine, which is absolutely NECESSARY if you’re looking to increase productivity.
Read that again—
Staying up late, working on your computer, playing on your phone, or consistently viewing bright electronic lights will make it physically harder to increase productivity.
Taking actions towards our goals can be hard enough, so why make it even more difficult on ourselves by essentially canceling dopamine?
Why we need dopamine to increase productivity
Dopamine was discovered in the late 1950s as the precursor of epinephrine/adrenaline. We think of dopamine as the molecule of reward and pleasure. But, it’s actually produced from epinephrine (aka adrenaline in the brain), which allows us to move into action.
Dopamine does so much for us! It’s released from several areas in the brain and body, but most importantly, it’s highly active in the mesolimbic reward pathway. This pathway helps to ignite the process of our desire to engage in a specific action, both positive (such as choosing to be physically active) and negative (feeding an unfortunate drug addiction).
The less dopamine that’s released into our bodies, the harder it will be to take action—even those things we tell ourselves that we’d REALLY like to accomplish!
Motivation is non-existent without dopamine
Motivation is fundamental to our daily life! It’s what allows us to get out of bed in the morning and to pursue both long-term and short-term goals. What’s interesting is that the chemistry of motivation is tightly bound with the chemistry of movement.
This is where dopamine comes in. It’s the exact molecule that is responsible for our desire to engage in both physical and intellectual activity. And its presence is imperative when wanting to increase productivity.
The latest from Huberman Labs
Huberman, an American neuroscientist, and professor at Stanford University, explained that a growth mindset is the attachment that takes place between our internal reward system and the friction we experience during processes that take effort.
A simple solution to grow, it seems, would be to focus on cutting the friction and effort of difficult tasks, easily creating a clear path for growth!
In his most recent podcast for Huberman Labs, Dr. Huberman asked us: “Are You Suppressing Your Drive and Motivation By Working Late into the Night?” He explained in detail what’s taking place when we stay up too late.
“[There’s something that] you may not be aware of, and even if you’re aware, you may still be doing it… which is severely injuring your ability to release dopamine. It’s creating a sense of disappointment in ways that are most likely hurting you mentally and physically. And that’s the blunting of dopamine.”
The blunting of dopamine takes place when we view bright light in the middle of the night (from about 10:00 PM to 4:00 AM).
Simply put, as bright light enters our eyes during these hours, we stop the process of releasing much-needed dopamine. This is happening as the light triggers activation of the habenula, which suppresses the activation of the reward circuitry process. And unfortunately, this affects events happening not only in that moment but also the things that we normally anticipate in a positive way and that we regularly pursue. This means that without dopamine, we’re not getting anything done!
Huberman further explains: “…you have this very precious reward system, that’s kind of a double-edged sword. It needs to be taken care of and treated well. You want to use it, but not overuse it. Getting bright light exposure in the middle of the night is reducing your capacity to release dopamine. So it’s not just about the sleep that you’re not getting in that time. It’s also that you’re not getting the dopamine that would otherwise be available to you. Think of light in the middle of the night as a blocker of dopamine.”
The obvious solution for increasing productivity and motivation
Plain and simple self-discipline is the only answer here. How committed are you to keep your brain health at its peak state by allowing the MAXIMUM amount of dopamine to be released into your system? Are you going to allow potential success and happiness to slip away as your motivation drops (because of your choice to stay up late at night)?
Science has spoken, and it’s telling us that staying up too late equates to intentionally cutting off your natural flow of vital dopamine. The power is literally in your hands. Shut down the phone, make it an early night, and get ready to take your inspiration to new heights!
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