This is a very controversial topic and endless debate and though there is no scientific anser to the question if you compare the pros and cons the answer seems obvious:

So what is the best time for studying? After analyzing the pros and cons, the answer to this question is in the morning. This is not only true for students but also for people who have a full-time job and want to study for a certificate because in the morning hours after a good night sleep we are most energetic.

But what are exactly the benefits of studying in the morning? And what about people who claim to be early birds or the night owls?

Why studying in the morning beats studying at night

I personally get up at 6 in the morning. My Phillips Hue lights flood my bedroom with white light and I am fully energized to start my daily routine after a protein-rich breakfast and a cup of coffee. And here I want to bring up the first argument for early study which is often used for night learners. It is quiet and breathing the fresh morning air gives me another energy boost. The reason why this argument doesn’t work for night owls is that they still have to sleep. So even if it is quiet during the night the daily hustle of the world might impact a high-quality sleep which will then consequently influence their ability to focus.

Another important fact is that the world runs during the day. If you want to study with someone, ask someone a question or run other errands you need to do it during the day. But one of the most important things the day has and the night never will is natural light (Read why this is so important in this article). It is not only the best light to study but it is also free.

One thing I learned and practice for years now is on tip of Brian Tracey which is to tackle the most annoying thing right away first thing in the morning. He called it to eat the ugliest frog first – you can find his book about it on my recommended study books page. This gives me a feeling of accomplishment right at the beginning of the day and lets me accomplish all the other tasks much easier. 

The next argument is that after a long day of study or work you can put up your feet and enjoy the evening with friends or family knowing that all your duties are done for the day. You can get your mind of the daily tasks and prepare to get a good night sleep. This is difficult to do after you stayed up all night to complete your study, you will most likely go to bed immediately and wake up sometime in the afternoon where you relax first and then start your tasks.

Why there is no such thing as night owls or early birds

We are not born as an early bird or a night owl. People develop the habit of getting up late and start the day with a nice and lazy morning, postponing the things that need to be done and then call themselves night owls.  So I cannot accept the statement I often hear “I am just a night person” like this is carved in stone and there is nothing that can be done about it. You can be what you want to be and study when you want to study. This is just a matter of changing your habits and daily routines.

I read the sentence somewhere “We each have our most productive time of the day when we have the most energy” as an argument that there is no best time to study because it depends on when we have the most energy. But the energy and productivity is not some mysterious element inside. Energy and productivity is a result of our behavior and techniques we use for our studies. 

The best morning routine

  • Get up when you get up – No turning around, hitting the snooze button and sleep for just 5 more minutes. Define a time and get up.
  • Do a quick exercise – I personally do a short 7 minutes workout (plenty of free Apps for this in all mobile stores) – this get’s your adrenaline up and ready for the day
  • Have a nutritious breakfast – I prefer a protein-rich egg breakfast and a good cup of coffee. Read here why coffee is so helpful for your study
  • Make sure you can start right away – This is important – Make sure you have everything you need to get started. Books and other materials and a nice and tidy desk where you feel comfortable. it is best when you prepare this before you go to bed.
  • Have a plan – Know your tasks. If you have a list of items you need to accomplish and the ugliest frog is right on top of the list then there is no reason to procrastinate. If you prepare this plan the evening before it does not only help you to get started but also sleep better because writing it on a list stores it safely on a paper so there is no need to worry about it while you try to fall asleep.
  • Take breaks – Taking a short break every 30 minutes (I walk around in the garden to get some oxygen) helps you to stay fresh and relax your muscles. A good method to keep track of pauses and tasks is the Pomodoro method (Plenty of free Apps for this as well). 

Related questions

Is it good to study before you sleep? No, it is not. You should give your mind some rest before you sleep. Even though some people say when you study something before going to bed you can recall it much better in the morning I would still always prefer a good night sleep over a late study. You can read my article about sleep learning to dive deeper into this topic. Besides, a short nap in the afternoon might not only store the learned things in your memory but also restores your energy.

How many hours should a student sleep a day? Many articles I read give you a fixed number, mostly 8 hours. When I tried to squeeze more time out of a day I learned that not the sleep quantity but the sleep quality is important. I took a course on Udemy for sleep improvement and since then sleep better than ever. So follow some simple rules to ensure you are perfectly rested in the morning and the absolute number of hours does not really matter. Read all about it here. For your reference, I put the Sleep improvement course on my resource page.

How many hours a day should you study? There is no general rule for this. But like a phone battery also the brain has limits and when you run out of energy continuing to study is a waste of time. The best person to judge this is you. When you feel exhausted and nothing seems to stick anymore you can either call it a day or recharge your batteries by taking a long walk. The best way to prevent an early empty battery is to take regular breaks as decribed above.

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Michael Borgers

I’m the author of “How to Sell your Photos Online” and “The Secret of Passing your HSK Chinese Level 1 Exam”. I created a cross-platform App to pass exams, several websites, and I sell photos on Microstock websites. In summary, I’m a passionate passive income freelancer who gave up his 9-5 Job at Hewlett-Packard years ago.

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