What is the best time to study? It’s one of those endless debates among students; is it better to study at night or during the day? Each side has its own loyal advocates who will speak at length of the benefits of their preferred method to try and convince you of the benefits of their choice.
Everyone thinks they know what the best time to study is but the reality is that each person is different and there is no clear winner from a scientific point of view. There are some people who get more out of studying at night while others find the best time to study to be the morning or the afternoon. In terms of objective reasons for both sides, we’ve researched the following benefits to try and answer once and for all what is the best time to study?!
Larks aren’t healthier, wealthier, or wiser.
Ben Franklin, that jack-of-all-Founding Fathers, once advocated for a lark lifestyle in a famous saying: “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” But a pair of epidemiologists at Southampton University in England—perhaps still bitter over that whole Revolution thing—directly challenged Franklin’s tyranny of the morning people in a 1998 paper for BMJ.
The researchers analyzed a national sample of men and women who’d been surveyed years earlier on sleep patterns as well as measures related to, well, health, wealth, and wisdom.
“Night owls might be a bit smarter than morning people.”
Night types have more game.
Evening types weren’t just good at scoring on intelligence tests. They also proved to be prolific lovers—at least according to a 2012 paper in the same journal.
The study, led by Christoph Randler of University of Education Heidelberg in Germany, tested 284 male participants for their chronotype and their sexual behavior. While both morning and evening types got busy equally often, the night guys reported more total partners. Evening types were also more closely linked to infidelity; to take the bird analogy way too far: it seems owls, and not larks, breed cuckolds.
“Evening types were more closely linked to infidelity.”
Owls are partial to bad habits – namely, smoking and drinking
A number of studies support these connections. One analysis of 676 adults from a Finnish twin cohort found that evening types were much more likely to be current or lifelong smokers, much less likely to stop smoking, and at much higher risk for nicotine dependence as per diagnostic criteria, compared with morning folks. Another study of 537 individuals found that owls consume more alcohol than larks.
That’s not a huge surprise when you consider that nightlife is conducive to drinking and smoking. What’s less clear to researchers is whether evening people are more inclined to partake because they’re already out late, or whether the addictive behaviors—at least in the case of a stimulant like cigarettes—keep them up longer in the first.
Larks are persistent, cooperative, agreeable, conscientious, and proactive
The tendency to drink and smoke among evening types is consistent with a broad personality trait that researchers call “novelty-seeking.” Multiple studies have connected owls with that characteristic. In a 2011 paper notable for focusing on adolescents, Randler and a Heidelberg colleague discovered a link between night people and novelty-seeking already present among German teenagers (technically, ages 12 to 18).
They also procrastinate less
Given that larks are generally more compliant and conformist than owls, it comes as little shock to learn that evening types seem to be worse procrastinators.That study focused on college students: night types and procrastinators almost by definition. But the finding held true in a 2008 study of an adult sample with a mean age of 50. Once again, being a night owl was associated with avoiding a task that needed to be completed, the study team (which included Ferrari) reported in the Journal of General Psychology.