Day vs. Night: When is the Best Time to Study?


Need to study for a big test or an upcoming class? You can hack your study energy by just cracking open the books at the right time. In fact, discovering the best time to study could help you seriously improve your academic performance or pass a major certification exam.

There’s just one problem: how do you know what the best time to study is? Turns out, it’s different for every person. Read on to discover the best study times based on circadian rhythms.

Circadian Rhythms Explained

Circadian rhythms are, put simply, the roughly 24-hour cycles of wakefulness and sleepiness that our bodies go through every day. Circadian rhythms are mostly governed by hormones but are also governed by other biological factors.

In any case, circadian rhythms affect when we get hungry, when we feel like we need to sleep, and when we have the most energy for work or studying. People broadly have two different types of circadian rhythms.

  • If you’re an early bird, your circadian rhythm causes you to have more energy in the morning, shortly after waking up. You probably feel most alert between 7 AM and 10 AM, then get another burst of energy around 11 AM to 3 PM or so
  • If you’re a night owl, your circadian rhythm causes you to have more energy in the afternoon and evening. You probably feel most energized in the afternoon until about 4 PM, then get another burst of energy between 7 PM and 10 PM

Others have more balanced circadian rhythms, so they might have energy throughout the day, but crash quickly after sundown.

So, the next time you need to break out your NASM study guide to prep for your certification, pay attention to your circadian rhythm and plan to study when your next big energy boost arrives. If you’re a night owl, that’s probably after 7 PM. If you’re an early bird, that’s likely between 7 and 10 AM.

Studying During the Morning

If you’re an early bird and want to study in the morning, your best bet is to do so right after you wake up, preferably with a cup of coffee. That’s before you have to go to school, work, or attend to other daily obligations.

However, depending on your schedule, you might find that you study best between 8 AM and 10 AM. If you have the time to study in this window, you may discover that your mind is better able to absorb information when compared to other times during the day.

Studying in the Evening

If you’re a night owl or have a balanced circadian rhythm, you might find that studying in the evening, particularly after the afternoon slump that hits most people around 3 PM, is calming and effective.

Studying at Night

If you’re a hard-core night owl, though, and find it hard to have energy before noon, you’ll be best served by studying after dinner, usually after 6 PM or 7 PM. At this time, the world itself will calm down and you won’t have as many work or social obligations to focus on.

That gives you the perfect window of opportunity to take a look at your books and start absorbing information from your class.

Which Time is Best to Study?

There isn’t one!

Instead, there’s an ideal time to study for each individual person. You can’t assume that another person’s study plan will work perfectly for you and vice versa. You’ll need to study your personal energy levels and determine the best time to study based on how awake you feel, when you feel like you need to take a nap, and when you feel most focused.

To study effectively, you should be both energized and somewhat calm – your mind shouldn’t be frazzled by distractions like friends or family members. For the best results, try to study at a time and place where you can focus exclusively on the information you want to absorb and when your body is at a naturally heightened energy state (so you don’t have to guzzle coffee to get anything done!).

All in all, the best time to study for you depends on your energy levels, your circadian rhythm, and your personal preferences. If you’re an early bird, odds are the best time to study is when you are most focused: usually between 7 AM and 10 AM.

If you are a night owl, on the other hand, you should probably try to study in the evening, usually between 7 PM and 10 PM. Of course, remember that these are averages, and your unique energy levels and rhythms might be a little different. Pay attention to your energy level throughout the day, then plan to study the next time you get a burst of focus!


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