Is It Better To Study In The Morning Or At Night?

We weighed up the pros and cons.

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We all have a preference — waking up bright and early to hit the books, or reading notes by lamplight well into the early hours of the morning.

Everyone has a routine that works best for them, and it usually revolves around the time of day it is. But we wanna know if there’s an objectively better time to retain information. Are us night owls shooting ourselves in the foot by staying up too late? Or are those morning people getting up early for no reason?

The Case For Studying At Night

It’s cosy, it’s quiet and if you like the night, your mind is sharp. Plus, science is on your side. A study asked two groups of participants to memorise a certain set of word pairings — one group to memorise at 9am, the other group to memorise at 9pm. Researchers found that the group who memorised stuff at 9pm retained more information than the 9am group.

Uh, hello! Those are some stone cold facts right there.

Sleeping right after we study a bunch of stuff seems to have a sort of marination effect too. We just learned all this new stuff, now we sleep for 8 hours and swim around in all that info, letting more of it seep into brains. (Wait, why is this analogy making me hungry?)

Even neuroscientist William R. Klemm wrote, “There is no longer any doubt. Sleep does improve the gelling or consolidation of memory for recently encoded information.” See! Gelling? Marinating? Same stuff.

So studying late at night and then having a long sleep will do a lot to help cement information in your head. Hell, even a short nap after a burst of study will help. Just try not to cram the night before — that’s bad.

The Case For Studying In The Morning

You’re feeling fresh! You’re feeling vibrant! It’s a brand new day and you’re ready to learn. Some. Shit. Surely this is a much better mindframe for remember chunks of information?

First up are all the obvious benefits: you’re refreshed after a long sleep, you get way more vitamin D and you have the whole day ahead of you to do other stuff. Plus, you get to be a lot more social. There’s something very vampire-like about hiding away in your dark hovel and tapping away at your computer in the dead of night. In the morning, you’ll be able to organise study dates with friends, or sit in on a busy cafe and peoplewatch between paragraphs.

Also, Dr Jane Oakhill, a psychologist at the University of Sussex, did a bunch of research into memory and found that the morning was better for taking in new information. While the afternoon and night are better for applying what you’ve learned and analysing information, the morning is best for remembering facts and numbers.

So if you’re studying for a history or science exam — something very fact-based — you should wake up early and do it then.

At the end of the day, I truly think that we’re split into two camps: night people or morning people. I know for sure that I’m the former. But I also know that if I wanted to be more of a morning person, there are ways to make that happen.