Is It Better to Stay up Late or Wake up Early to Study?

Typing on a Laptop

Finding a good time to study can be a challenge, especially during midterms. Exams cover a lot of material and sometimes, that extra bit of cramming can help. So whether you’re in the middle of the semester or in the final hours before a big test, you want to be prepared. This means studying when you’re at peak focus and able to absorb information effectively.

So to answer the question, is it better to stay up late or wake up early to study? Both are okay as long as you don’t reduce the amount of sleep you get. Not everyone is productive in the morning, and not everyone is effective at night. Do what works best for you, but try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep.

Are You an Early Bird or Night Owl?

To determine whether you should study late at night or in the early morning, ask yourself if you’re an early bird or night owl. Early birds get to sleep early and wake up early, which make them best suited for studying in the morning. Night owls are the opposite. They’re usually more productive at night so it would make sense for them to study late. If you’re unsure which type you are, take a minute to analyze your daily routines. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What time do I normally go to bed?
  • Do I wake up early on a regular basis?
  • Is it loud in the morning?
  • Do I usually sleep in?
  • Am I more focused in the morning?

Once you understand your regular habits, it’s easier to know when you will be most productive. Carefully note how you feel throughout the day. For example, if you go to the gym at night, studying afterwards may be beneficial since you’re senses will be heightened or more alert. You may, however, feel more tired after a workout. This would be a key indicator on deciding when to study.

To analyze this further, lets look into the pros and cons of studying late versus studying early.

Benefits of Studying Late

Students tend to be night owls. With heavy workloads and lots of exams, many prefer to work late into the night.

To break it down, the body is better suited to work in the evening. Blood sugar is higher which improves focus and makes it easier to retain information. Note that being able to retain information should be followed by a good sleep, otherwise, it will be difficult to remember what you learned.

It’s often said that creativity is sparked in the night, rather than in the morning. When you’re tired, the mind wanders and it’s more easily distracted. This usually happens at night when the creative juices start to flow.

There are less distractions. You’re less likely to receive a call or text, hear a noise, or have a random visitor drop by. Daily activities are finished for the day. You can study with the peace of mind knowing that you don’t have to run off to a class or meeting. It will be quieter since the people around you will probably be asleep, unless your roommate snores. In that case, you could listen to music or use ear plugs.

So you may have already decided that working late is better for you. But to be thorough, it’s important to understand the risks associated with night time studying.

Risks of Studying Late

Studying late also has its risks. For one, you may not allow yourself to get enough sleep. Since there are no classes to get to, the whole night is essentially, free. Sleep is very important for overall health. It gives us the rest that we need to perform throughout the day. Lack of sleep can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and mental issues. The body simply doesn’t get enough rest to keep everything in balance. This includes heart rate and blood sugar levels.

Little sleep may also lead to insomnia or other psychological problems. There are 5 stages of sleep. First, the body drops in temperature, the muscles relax, and the heart rate and breathing slows down. During these stages, the immune system is boosted as the body repairs, keeping you in a healthy state. When studying cuts into sleep time, the body isn’t able to properly go through these stages or they are disturbed. In this case, it’s easier to get sick.

The glare from the computer screen, especially in the dark, makes it very difficult to shut down and head to bed. The constant glare affects your melatonin levels and tricks your mind into thinking that its the middle of the day, even though it’s actually the complete opposite. This can easily keep you up all night until the exam which would be a bad idea.

The body needs to rest in order to retain all the information learned from the previous day. Sometimes at night, your mind will be flooded from what you learned during the day. It needs to be able to process all of that information. Piling on more at night could be overkill and make it harder to remember what you studied.

Benefits of Waking up Early to Study

There are numerous benefits to waking up early, both mentally and physically. If you’re a morning person, you probably already know that fresh feeling you get as you wake up with the sunrise. The body is in a relaxed state which makes it easier to grasp concepts, be productive, and get more out of the day.

There’s no rush to get up. When you wake up, you can plan the day and just take it slow. Brew yourself a cup of coffee, go for a jog, and get organized.

Stress is reduced. When you wake up early to study, you don’t have to quickly run anywhere or catch the bus. The mind is clear, well rested, and prepared to dive into the books. Less stress keeps you on a positive note. Research indicates that those who wake up earlier are generally happier. This helps avoid getting discouraged when studying.

Sleep patterns are not affected. You have the whole day to be productive without losing hours of sleep or worrying about not getting enough rest. After a long day, you will be ready to dive into bed and repeat this healthy schedule.

In the morning, The natural light is much better than looking at a screen in the dark. You’re eyes will avoid strain.

Risks of Waking Up Early to Study

Aside from the benefits of studying early, there’s also a negative side.

If you’re not a regular morning person, you may rely too much on coffee for that extra push. This can easily spiral out of control as you cram before the big exam. One cup leads to another and before you know it, you start to get the caffeine jitters.

Getting up early to study can also affect your energy levels. Because it’s a longer day, you may get tired more easily. Lunch will seem further away and each task may seem like an eternity. This could lead to an increase in stress and mood swings that last throughout the day.

Waking up early means going to bed early, unless you don’t need very much sleep. This may be difficult to do, especially as a student. Parties, events, and social gatherings generally happen at night, and usually go pretty late. The sleep schedule is always changing, making it a challenge to be an early riser.

Even though concentration is heightened, early birds can lack creativity. You’re usually more alert in the morning and able to focus on a particular task while blocking out distractions. This, in fact, makes it harder to broaden the mind and think more abstractly.

Conclusion – Is It Better to Stay up Late or Wake up Early to Study?

So it’s best to do what works for you, depending on when you’re most productive. Whichever you decide, try to not lose any sleep for that extra bit of cramming. This will only make you foggy and tired during the day. Also, be consistent with your routine. Once you find a schedule that works, stick to it. Depending on when your first class is, get into a consistent schedule to give yourself a good sleep. For instance, if you have class at 8 in the morning, try to get to bed by midnight or 1 so that you can get a full night of rest. Working late doesn’t have to mean less sleep.

Kris Peter

I am a lifelong advocate of sleep, continually learning, and striving to be better than I was yesterday.

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