You are sitting in class, and your professor is passing back the graded exams from the last set of midterms. You get yours back, and you are not satisfied with the score you received. Wanting to do better next time, you reflect on your study habits and how you can improve them. For this past exam, you noticed that you studied at odd times and you were not diligent as you could have been with your study time. You ask yourself when is the best time to study and realize you are not quite sure, which is probably why you are here now. You want to improve your study skills.
We have done some studying of our own, and we have found some tips and tricks for finding out when is the best time to study. In short, it will vary from person to person based on personality and lifestyle, but we have organized this guide to help you decide when is the best time to study for you.
When Is the Best Time to Study?
Determining when is the best time to study is best answered based on your personality and lifestyle. You will need to take a look at patterns in your life that determine if you are a morning lark or a night owl. These patterns are dictated by your circadian rhythms and determine when you will feel most energized and able to study. We talk about the science behind this and the patterns in detail later on, but obviously, if you are a morning lark, then you will benefit from studying in the morning versus a night owl who will benefit from studying in the evening.
Regardless of when is the best time to study, it is important to remember that no matter when you choose to study that a well-rested brain is needed for efficient learning to take place. This is true if you study in the morning, during the day, or at night. Perhaps it is especially true if you choose to study at night. It can be easy to stay up late and ignore the need to sleep in a desire to stay focused on studying. But this can be detrimental to the effectiveness of your studying. Remember, no matter when you choose to study, the brain will do better if it is well rested. This means that you must ensure you always get a good night's sleep before you plan to do any studying, regardless of when you choose to study.
What the Science Says: Morning Lark vs. Night Owl
Science says that our cycles are dictated by circadian rhythms. These rhythms operate on a 24-hour sleep/wake cycle. They determine everything we do in our daily lives, including when to wake, when to eat, when to work, and when to sleep. Circadian rhythms differ from person to person, but there are patterns that indicate whether a person is more energized in the morning (i.e., a morning lark) or more energized in the evening (i.e., a night owl). Being aware of these patterns and how they are present in your life will help you determine when is the best time study.
For the morning lark or a morning person, they are often awake and energized by 7 am. They can get up and get going without much delay. However, they may need a rest at about 10 am until they experience their next burst of energy around 3 pm. If you find this pattern fits you, then you will want to focus your efforts on studying during the morning hours and afternoon. During the rest period of 10 am to 3 pm, you will want to work on tasks that are of low cognitive demand, such as repetitive tasks like organizing notes.
For the night owl, they often find it difficult to get up and going until about midday when they experience their first burst of energy. This will carry them through until 3 pm when they have their second burst of energy to keep them going until 7 pm. They will continue to work until about 10 pm when they may suddenly find a quick shift from being able to do activities to needing sleep. If you find this pattern fits you, then you will want to plan your study sessions to be in the afternoon or evening when you experience those bursts of energy and can use it to focus.
In addition to differences between the morning larks and the night owls of the world, there is also a preferred difference for when is the best time to study based on age. For students over 30, there is a strong preference to study during the day. Some surveys show that 80% of students 30+ prefer to study during the day, while students under 30 have a preference for studying at night.
Studying During the Day
As stated previously, it is important to get a good night's rest before setting out to study. If you are a morning lark and choose to study in the morning or during the day, then make sure you consume a healthy and nutritious breakfast to keep you going all morning. During the day, you will find that you are more energized and focused than at night. This will help your study sessions be more productive.
During the day, you will find less of a need to rely on artificial light. This is of great benefit to your health because sunlight is much better for ensuring good, healthy eyesight. In addition to this, the sunlight works in conjunction with your pituitary gland, which helps keep you awake and alert.
Indoor lighting has been shown to interrupt the sleep cycle, and as we have already stated, getting a good night's rest is essential to learning efficiently. Furthermore, doctors recommend that you avoid artificial forms of light such as TV, computers, and mobile screens before bed.
The world primarily operates during the day. This will give you many benefits to your study time by giving you places open for you to study in and having access to resources such as friends and teachers should you require assistance.
Studying at Night
Alright, so you are not one of those morning lark people that can just pop out of bed like a pop-tart and be ready to start the day. You feel a bit sluggish when you first wake up, and it is not until midday that you finally feel energized to get started on your work. For you, studying in the evening or at night will be better for you and your productivity. Remember, even though you are studying at night, you still want to make sure that you get enough sleep and are well rested. Your brain will thank you.
Studying at night comes with some benefits that are not available when you choose to study during the day. You will find there is an abundance of peace and quiet, and there will be fewer distractions as most of the world is asleep. This can help you maintain your focus as you are studying and learning. If you can find places that are open late or 24-hours, then you will see that there are also fewer people there. This will give the space you need to stay focused without feeling crowded.
Quiet & Contemplative
At night, we are often more relaxed, quiet, and contemplative. You will find this state being different from the more agitated and energized state of being required for operating during the day. In this more relaxed state, you will see things differently and be able to think more creatively. This can be a huge benefit when working on challenging projects or creative projects where you need to engage in divergent thinking.
Many authors, scientists, songwriters, and other creative thinkers often prefer to work at night because of the “out of the box” thinking that occurs. This is due to the relaxed state of being and because the eyes and brain work differently at night. This allows you to unlock new and creative insights into the problems you are trying to solve.
It can be easy to lose track of time when studying at night, which can then lead to less sleep. Remember, a well-rested brain and mind are essential to optimal learning. This means if you choose to study at night, you need to keep a strict routine and set deadlines for when to stop studying. This is essential, so you do not interrupt your circadian rhythms.
It can be tempting to want to grab a caffeinated beverage to push through the fatigue while studying at night. However, it can take up to 4 hours for caffeine to leave the body. So while you may be gaining a short burst of energy to get some needed focus, it will lead to you having trouble getting that good night's rest, which is essential for optimal learning. Thus, it is best to avoid any caffeine during the evening hours.
Ultimately, deciding when is the best time to study is a personal choice and will depend on your natural rhythms and patterns that dictate your life. For the morning larks and those over 30, it is best to study in the morning and afternoon. This is when you feel most energized and focused. While for the night owls and people under 30, you may find that you prefer to study in the evening hours when you will have fewer distractions and be able to focus on your studies.
Regardless of when you choose to study, please remember that it is important that you get a good night's rest and set a routine for your study habits. This means taking 5- to 10-minute breaks every 50 minutes, staying hydrated, and, if studying at night, avoiding caffeine. Alright, that's enough time spent studying how to study; we want you to get back to studying, so take these tips and put them into action.