There are two factions in the world of studious college attendees: those who study in the morning, vs those who study at night.
I've tried both during my time in college, and if you want to know whether you should study in the morning or at night, here's the short answer:
Students who have more energy during the day will probably find they're better able to focus at night, while those who have more energy and focus in the morning would benefit from studying in the morning. Find what works for you, and stick to it.
But if you want a more detailed answer, keep reading:
Studying in the Morning
Although most college-age students prefer to study later in the evening, I found morning study sessions preferable most of the time.
Here are some of the main benefits:
Benefits of Studying in the Morning
First of all, your mind is fresh when you first wake up from a good night's sleep, ready to absorb information. If you're going to study in the morning, go to bed on time so you don't feel like a zombie in the morning. Even drinking Early Bird isn't a substitute for adequate sleep.
But assuming you got to bed early, many people claim early morning hours are their most productive.
In fact, Indian culture speaks of the Brahma muhurt, a period of the day roughly one and a half hours before sunrise in which the mind and body are the sharpest.
Other cultures have a similar belief, but it boils down to doing your most important tasks early in the morning like meditation, yoga, reading, studying, etc.
Additionally, if you can study after a morning run, studies have shown exercise improves associative memory and your brain's ability to retain information, both of which are important for productive studying.
Essentially, exercise is not only good for your body but for sharpening your mind as well.
Studying in the morning can also set you up for success, especially if you make your bed beforehand. You're in control of your life, and controlling the little things is important if you want to do the big things right too.
Making your bed, exercising, and studying first thing in the morning are all great, productive things to do that you have complete control over. Even if you can only do one of the three, you'll feel a sense of pride afterward which will carry over into other aspects of your day.
Do this every day, and you'll have some pretty darn good habits after a while. Think about how you'll feel walking to class knowing you've already been productive - whether it was simply making your bed, going for a run, studying for an hour, or all of the above.
You'll have your head held high, ready to take on the day.
Lastly, I've found that studying in the morning - particularly the morning of a test - helps me retain the information I'd otherwise forget.
I'd typically wake up an hour earlier the day of a test to review the material, even reciting the information on the way to class so it'd be fresh in my brain.
Drawbacks of Studying in the Morning
Studying in the morning is great if you can wake up and get sh*t done, but for those who aren't morning people, studying in the morning sounds like a miserable way to start the day. In fact, doing anything in the morning probably doesn't sound great.
Studying in the evening might be a better option for this type of person. But there's a third type that might resonate with you...
The kind of person who wants to get sh*t done and knows the importance of mastering their morning. The person who's tried waking up early time and time again yet failed miserably and reverted to old habits.
If this pattern sounds like you - trying to get up early but being paralyzed by that groggy feeling you get in the morning - there's a solution.
How to Study Early in the Morning
We've got a whole post outlining 9 tips to study in the morning without feeling sleepy. It's a value-oozing post written to help you finally master your morning, wake up early, and get sh*t done without hitting snooze or sleeping in. You can check it out by clicking here.
Here's the short version:
Even when you go to bed early, it's still hard to jump out of bed feeling awake and energized. You get that groggy, zombie-like feeling and want to hit snooze.
Here are a few ways to fix the problem:
1) Make sure you hydrate first thing in the morning. Trying to wake up without hydrating first is like trying to jump-start a car that's been sitting in the cold. Not a good idea.
2) Give your body a source of fast-acting, long-lasting energy. Your body and brain shut down overnight, which is why giving your body the energy it needs is crucial. But you can't use low-quality caffeine or energy drinks that'll give you a sudden spike in energy followed by a crash. Long-lasting energy is important!
3) Do something to enhance your mood like making your bed or taking a supplement. Your morning mood is proven to affect the rest of your day, which is why it's important to set yourself up for success.
A morning cocktail (usually water mixed with other ingredients like lemon juice) is a common way to make it easier to wake up early. But most morning cocktails don't fix all three of the problems above at once. Rather, they only address one, which isn't the best way to have a great day.
Studying at Night
Despite what you might think, we're actually not 'anti studying at night.'
When I was in college I typically studied in the morning, but that's not to say I didn't study in the evening.
With experience studying at both times of the day, here is my take on the pros/cons of studying at night:
Benefits of Studying at Night
Students who have more energy in the evening or nighttime are better suited for studying at that time. It comes down to personal preference and while both have their pros and cons, I wouldn't say one is necessarily better than the other.
If you have 8 AM classes or obligations early in the morning, you probably aren't able to study in the morning unless you rise at the crack of dawn (or earlier) which is unrealistic for most.
In this case, studying at night is a better option. Your obligations for the day are over and there won't be many people awake to distract you from your work. Despite converting to a morning person somewhat recently, I was definitely a night owl during my younger years.
I think the calm of the night caters nicely to a productive study environment, as opposed to the chaos of the day, assuming you can stay awake without downing a million cups of coffee.
And once your study session is complete, you'll hit the pillow ready for bed, feeling accomplished.
It's also been shown that a good night's sleep can improve memory, meaning your brain will process and memorize what you studied just before bed.
Drawbacks of Studying at Night
Still, like studying in the morning, there are drawbacks to studying at night. The largest of which in my opinion is procrastination.
When you know you're going to study 'later tonight' you'll prioritize everything else before studying, which makes it all too easy to wait until it's 2 AM.
I often found myself pushing off my study sessions until it was far too late, getting little to no sleep, and hating my life the next day in class.
For example, I waited until midnight to write my final English paper freshman year of college, about a book I didn't read, due at 8 AM, after which I'd take the final exam. I got an A but that's beside the point...
The point is, you don't want to study so late that you end up studying at night and sleeping during the day, because it'll screw up your rhythm and sleep schedule.
Don't start so late that you'll be up all night, barely able to keep your eyes open. There is an ideal time to study at night, and in the morning for that matter.
Best Time to Study at Night
According to the PSB Academy:
"Science has indicated that learning is most effective between 10 am to 2 pm and from 4 pm to 10 pm, when the brain is in an acquisition mode. On the other hand, the least effective learning time is between 4 am and 7 am."
Find the best time for you and stick to it!