The Psychology (or Science) Behind Late-Night Conversations

There seems to be a magic behind late-night conversations - at no other time in the day do we feel so at ease communicating deep thoughts. It is almost as if it were easier to be vulnerable in the dark… but is there some psychology behind this? 

Indeed there is! 

Low visibility

From a biological and evolutionary standpoint, humans, just like many other species, are particularly vulnerable to the dark-- we are no longer able to monitor our surroundings [1]. As the environment in which we find ourselves becomes blurred, it is as if our mind were to become a room, and that room were to become a world in itself, offering us a galaxy between reality and the dream-world into which we can escape for a lovely late-night conversation. 

And while darkness may increase our vulnerability from a purely biological standpoint, it also hides our facial expressions or body language, which is a crucial point to touch upon since we’re talking about late-night conversations. Sharing deeply emotional and/ or personal information, even if it be with a friend, tends to feels more comfortable at night, when, in many cases, we are sitting in a dimly lit room and hence are less exposed to any perceived judgment purely based on the lack of lighting hitting our faces. 

There’s an interesting study that was done on this by Dr. Glenn Wilson, who looked at the psychology behind people wearing sunglasses, and found that “sunglasses mask the wearer’s eyes and thus allows less information for others to read emotions and expressions, [giving] the wearer a sense of unpredictability and power that leads to more confidence” [2]. Microexpressions, which are brief, subtle and almost impossible-to-control reactions in response to an emotion we are experiencing, are well hidden under a pair of sunglasses, which might make it easier for us to do, say, or share something that we normally wouldn’t. 

Since having a late night conversation in the dark is similar to Wilson’s study on wearing sunglasses in the sense that both deal with less exposure to light, it is possible for us to hypothesize that the ability of the dark to hide our microexpressions when sharing deeply emotional information or thoughts during a late night conversation makes it easier for us to do so-- we are likely to feel less judged and “protected” by the darkness and peacefulness of night. 

Increased Activity of the Parasynthetic nervous System

Speaking of the peacefulness of night: Part of the reason talks with a good friend feel so damn good when they’re at 3 A.M. is because while our body is resting, our mind is not. Hence, the sensation of having grand thoughts or expressing glorious emotions is heightened. 

Our parasynthetic nervous system is more active at night, when our body is tired and transitioning to a state of rest: that’s because the PNS is “the part of the nervous system that causes us to come into a natural state of relaxation, receptivity, and healing” [3]. As our physical body mirrors the natural laws of the universe [3], the sunset reminds us that, in many ways, the chaos of the day has been laid to rest. Evening and night time provide space for much-needed processing and peace after a busy day. According to Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC, a doctor of psychology and a licensed clinical social worker, late night conversations are the perfect opportunity to communicate with loved ones regarding anything you need support on, or anything you want to provide support for. This makes sense, since, thanks to heightened activity in your PNS, your mind is clearer and you feel relaxed, which allows you and your loved one to have better, more cohesive conversations on potentially heavy and emotional subjects. 

With the burden of the day put aside, it is easier for us to appreciate, acknowledge, and express these deeper feelings. The emotions we’ve tried to rush through before sunset now dance around in our minds, and gloriously, we can experience them in their full power, in the nighttime room of our minds where nothing else seems to exist but the thoughts shared between two floating souls, sharing a sacred moment of life together in vulnerability and support. 

This makes for a strange, yet simultaneously perfect combination of two opposites: lack of control (losing our sight to the dark, not being able to perceive the environment around us very well), and a feeling of peace/ tranquility (increased activity in our PNS relaxing and reducing activity in our body). What results is the potion giving life to some of the most interesting, nostalgic, and thoughtful conversations that we so cherish… now you know why! 


[1] Wichlinski, L.J. “Adaptive Solutions to the Problem of Vulnerability During Sleep.” Evolutionary Psychological Science 8, 442–477 (2022).

[2] Lazzaro, Martin Anthony. “Why do we like wearing sunglasses? What are we hiding when we do?” Penn State University, Sep 9, 2015. 

[3] Guerra, Julia. “This Is The Best Time To Have A Deep Conversation With Someone, According To Experts.” Elite Daily, Jun 4 2018.