We love to work as efficiently as possible, always looking for the best route to our favorite store or saving our information on specific websites for faster login or checkout. So naturally, we want to make the most of our time while we study as well.
Although it’s a little more complicated than this, in short, the best time of day to study is:
- Study in the morning for reviewing of material or quick critical tasks like math
- Study in the evening for things that included deep or creative thought
Yes, but why. I have often heard this throughout high school and here and there on a podcast or two. But why are we told to get up and study in the morning and read our chapters at night? If you want to stick around and hear the “more complicated” side, here goes!
Just a quick note, if you are looking for some study tips that can really make a difference in your academic performance, check out our study tips post at the link below:
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If you are looking for the best study tools out there, you should read our article on the best study tools to enhance your studying at the link below:
Study in the morning for reviewing of material or quick critical tasks like math
Dr. Jane Oakhill, a psychologist who studied different types of memory, published an article titled “Text memory and integration at different times of day” in 1988, where she determined that text recall study types are remembered most during the morning (Source).
Text recall, as she described, is anything that required remembering an exact text or exact steps — recalling items like math problems where you need to follow a precise formula or vocabulary memorization fall into this category. All of your critical thinking tasks and learning also do best when accomplished in the morning.
I feel it necessary to mention that if you are not a morning person and don’t intend to become a morning person, then studying in the morning is likely not going to work for you. Even if you can wake up at 5:00 AM every morning, if the whole morning is going to be you wishing you had your eyelids closed, then your probably not really retaining anything you try to memorize anyways. Later I will explain how to customize your study habits to your biorhythm, so don’t worry.
Study in the evening for things that included deep or creative thought
In that same study from Dr. Jane Oakhill, she noted that the morning study session, text recall was significantly better if accompanied by evening integration of the information took place.
This integration of information is all of the heavy reading things. Reading your chapter of textbooks or literature book at night is how you bring your critical knowledge to life. This knowledge applies to a discussion about the subject or even watching a movie about it. Anything that helps you tie facts to real-world expertise is information integration. This type of learning occurs frequently in evening study.
As with morning study, if you can not pull off a night study routine, don’t. Knowing the optimal time to study each subject does not mean that you can’t study whenever it works best for you. If you have busy afternoons and evenings and are exhausted by 7:00 PM, then sleep well and wake up early.
Beyond the typical morning or night debate
We all work a little bit differently. Some of us are morning people, some of us are night owls, some of us are naturally critical thinkers, and some of us are born creatives. So obviously the general rules alone are not sufficient enough to tell us when each of us should settle down for a good study session. A few things to consider when choosing the best time to study for you are:
When are you best rested?
Whether you are a morning person or a night owl, if you are not well-rested when you sit down to study, you are going to have problems staying focused and remembering anything at all. You should get between 6-8 hours of sleep per night; this will vary between each individual, so you have to dial in what amount of sleep works best for you.
I need 7 hours of sleep. If I get 6.5 hours, I feel so tired the next day it’s hard to stay awake, but if I get a full 8 hours of sleep, then I feel groggy all day too and hardly have any motivation at all. So, this one depends on you. Just listen to your body, and once you find the exact amount of sleep for you, make it a priority to get that every night.
When does your energy peak?
Related to the last point but slightly different, this is when you are most mentally prepared to study. It is not beyond comprehension to be best suited for studying at noon. If you wake up early or late or for any number of reasons, your best study time can be any time of the day. As long as your energy is up and your brain is working efficiently, then go for it!
Make sure to honestly track your assumptions though, just because you think your best study time is at noon doesn’t necessarily mean you are correct, especially if you are trying to study on a lunch break. It’s not a great idea to try and concentrate when you are hungry or attempt to multitask with something at important as studying.
What Else Do You Have Scheduled?
Everyone has a scheduled already packed with obligations; be realistic about when you can study. On the same note, make your study time an absolute necessity and put it on the schedule too. If you don’t already have a personal plan written down, I suggest you do that. Something about writing everything down and seeing your open blocks of time puts perspective on how much or how little free time you have. Write down everthing constant and “written in stone” like your school schedule and work schedule, then put in your study times. After that, you can see when you have available time for social events or even personal time.
I am a calendar blocking freak; everything I do for every single day is marked down on my calendar. Honestly, if it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist. If it is on the schedule, that is what I am doing with my life at that moment. It helps with actually completing large projects and knowing when I can go out with friends without stressing over a deadline.
Where can you be the least distracted?
You already know that your phone will be going off periodically if you don’t put it on airplane mode so set time aside for doing that when you need actually to focus; make sure you are in the best environment for studying. Somewhere that you won’t have people disrupting your thought process with “just a quick question” or have the tv talking in the background. Where that is, is up to you, but be honest with yourself when choosing your spot. If you are a social person, Starbucks on campus is probably not the best place.
I have had an actual home office for several years, and I can sincerely say that sitting in my office, with the door closed, is still not as peaceful nor as productive as going to the library and finding a quiet corner to sit in. If you live alone, it may not be as bad, but even so, you have to be able to block out any house chores that need to be done or endless snacking in the kitchen.
Bonus consideration: Study right after the lecture
I have said it before, but it worth noting again, and possibly again later, the best time to study is right after the lecture. Studies show that the sooner you review your new information, the better chance you have of remembering what you have just learned. Just review your notes quick, listen to a related podcast before your next class, or add a documentary to your watch next list.
Studying doesn’t always have to mean flashcards and text reading; studying in real life is anything you do to expand your understanding of a topic. If you want to learn anything, like really learn something, obsess over it for a little while. People talk about binge-watching a whole series of something on the weekend; I watch like four documentaries and dozens of YouTube videos on something and become a practical black plague historian by Monday. I know, I am such a nerd, but if you truly want to know something, a class is not enough. Even after studying years of computer coding, I find myself still needing to reach out to other resources to supplement what I know.
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