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?
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