What is the best time of day to study?

Modified on by Andrew Cohen

What is the best time of day to use Brainscape?

According to Brainscape’s recent data, it appears that our millions of users tend to study with roughly equal frequency at various times throughout the day. Some study flashcards with spaced repetition when they wake up in the morning. Some study on their commutes.  Some study while watching TV after dinner.  And — if Brainscape users are like most smart phone users — some probably study on the toilet as well (if you can’t help it just wash your hands, people. Seriously).

But is there a time of day when our Brainscape study sessions are most likely to be effective? What is the best time of day to use Brainscape? A recent study in the journal PLoS One may have found the answer to this question.

What Time of the Day Does the Brain Function Best?

Evening May Be The Best Time to Study

Jessica D. Payne and her colleagues had over 200 test subjects memorize pairs of unrelated words and then tested their recall 24 hours later. Half of those subjects studied the words at 9am (and took a test at 9am the next day), while the other half studied them at 9pm (and took a test at 9pm the next day). The results: After controlling for natural differences in exam performance at different times of day, the researchers found conclusive evidence that people performed better on the next day’s test when they had studied at night.

The leading theory behind this interesting result is that when we sleep, the items recently residing in our short-term memory are converted into long-term memories by the process of declarative memory consolidation. Items learned close to the person’s bedtime would presumably still reside in short-term memory as the person falls asleep and would therefore be candidates for consolidation into long-term memory.  In contrast, items learned earlier in the day could risk slipping out of short-term memory (without long-term consolidation) due to the frequent day-to-day distractions that might fill our finite short-term memory capacity. By the time we go to sleep, the earlier new information might have already been lost.

Like with most theories, further research is needed to prove the exact mechanism behind the findings and how they manifest in different people and different situations. But it seems safe to assume that you will get the greatest benefit from your Brainscape usage by making Brainscape part of your nightly bedtime routine. And who knows: If your study materials are boring enough, it might just help you fall asleep faster to begin with. Mixed blessings, eh?

Brainscape is a web & mobile education platform that helps you learn anything faster, using cognitive science. Join the millions of students, teachers, language learners, test-takers, and corporate trainees who are doubling their learning results. Visit brainscape.com or find us on the App Store .


Zachary Willis 5 years ago

I don't know, it's going to be pretty tricky trying to fit studying using Brainscape into my CRAZY social life with MANY EXCLUSIVE parties (or watching six hours of Law and Order: SVU with a king size Kit-Kat).

Daniyar 7 years ago

High Amanda,

Is it possible to make pictures in flashcards attached to questions/answers to appear bigger on Ipad screen ?

One of reasons for me to get Ipad Mini was that it is small enough to carry with me everywhere and that it's screen is bigger than on Iphone. But pictures attached to answers are tiny and does not occupy all available space. I have quite a few technical questions and often answer or question requires to look on schematic.



Bob 6 years ago

You can put pictures in your cards?

Honey 7 years ago

How to put pronunciation on a card?

Lee " the randomly smart one " 6 years ago

The best time is probably before you go to sleep then you will remember it easily

Legionaire 6 years ago

I was studying before bedtime any how due to procrastination lol! No w I can pretend there is a real reason for my timing haha!

Romane Robinson 5 years ago

Grad school night classes suddenly make more sense.

Victor Liu 5 years ago

As long as we go to sleep right after classes haha. However the truth is sometimes our life just begin after the night classes :)

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