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New research reveals that students study best later in the day

New research has revealed that students study more effectively between 11:00 am and 9.30 pm than at other times of the day.

Based on a sample of 190 first and second year students, the OU and University of Nevada, analysed the study patterns of each student to determine optimum times when cognitive performance can be expected to be at its peak.

The analysis, led by Dr Paul Kelley, OU Honorary Associate in Sleep, Circadian and Memory Neuroscience and Dr Maria Evans at the University of Nevada, looked at the preferred sleeping times of the participants and asked them to rate their fitness for cognitive activities in each hour of the 24-hour day.

The results, Identifying the best times for cognitive functioning using new methods: Matching university times to undergraduate chronotypes was published in frontiers in Human Neuroscience on 30 March 2017.

It showed that much later starting times of after 11:00 am or 12 noon, result in the best study performance. It also revealed that those who saw themselves as “evening” people outnumbered the “morning” people by 2:1 and it concluded by stating that every start time disadvantages one or more of the chronotypes (propensity for the individual to sleep at a particular time during a 24-hour period).

Dr Kelley said: “This raises the question as to why conventional universities start their lectures at 9:00 am when our research reveals that this limits the performance of their students.

“This work is very helpful for distance learning as it allows for the student to target their study time to align with their personal rhythm and at the time of day when they know they are most effective.”

A short version of the survey can be trialled.