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At a time, I was a night owl. My family kept nagging all the time why would I stay up the whole night and go to bed when everyone else is waking up. So I changed it, as I also read articles that irregular sleep could harm the body in many aspects. (For example, it affects your weight, read this article)

Nowadays, I can say I'm a morning person! It was easy to change my sleep pattern because all I wanted to do was sitting in front of the computer and surfing the internet. I didn't feel any special differences cause I'm totally distracted while surfing the internet, no matter what time it is.

But at this time, I need to start to study for a big test. I don't have enough time for it (less than 3 months).

My question is, do I need to find out when is the appropriate time to study for me, the time when I'm at the height of my brain power and the least tired? By spending a week on it, for example because I doubt whether I am an early bird or a night owl.

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The article says that sleeping less than 8 hours in bad, not that being a night owl is bad. – Tom Wijsman Nov 28 '11 at 12:31
@TomWijsman: Did you read the full article or "tl;dr"? "[...]Remember that cortisol levels normally peak in the early morning (about 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.) as a way to get a person moving and prepare her to face the challenges of the day. Between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., cortisol levels begin to drop, and they continue to gradually decline throughout the day, typically causing us to feel a decrease in energy levels and ability to concentrate someting [...]" – Gigili Nov 28 '11 at 12:59
It contains normally which says nothing about how it differs for a night owl or if the time is related to waking up, so that statement doesn't hold in any way with regards to "being a night owl is harmful for the body in many aspects". You are drawing the wrong conclusions here... – Tom Wijsman Nov 28 '11 at 13:57
@TomWijsman: Maybe this answer will make my point clearer . – Gigili Nov 28 '11 at 14:20
Your last reply does not cover that sentence with a study or proof, the relationship between both says nothing about night owls. If you really want to know what results in weight gain; then, you should consider that is more likely to be the result of sitting in front of that computer and surfing the internet, instead of going out for a walk or any kind of sport. As a night owl you don't tend to do that at night and are more tired to do that during the day. The weight gain you are referring to is negligible compared to that activity... – Tom Wijsman Nov 28 '11 at 15:28
up vote 7 down vote accepted

There is no definitive answer to this; as you outlined yourself in the article and comments this does depend on your energy levels which depend by itself on your cortisol levels. We are different people; so, what works for one person might not work well for another...

As you have been a night owl for some time you have had a shift of your cortisol/energy levels in such way that they are high in the late evening or at night; this makes it so that you can concentrate yourself much better in the late hours while others simply can't think about something else than sleep.

It might or might not be that your cortisol/energy levels are not back to normal, it kind of depends on when you had your switch back to a normal sleep schedule. In the case that your cortisol levels are back to normal, you can learn through-out the day at normal energy levels and spent the rest of the time on something else. Learning at the evening can be tricky, given the lack of cortisol/energy at that point it's much harder to concentrate on your study. Some people decide to go sleep and wake up earlier to get the benefit of the risen cortisol/energy levels in the morning.

The advantage of learning as a night owl is that there are no social interruptions and you are learning under higher energy levels, this however comes at the cost of social activities: You don't sit together with family in the morning, you are tired when you go out on restaurant, and so on. While you still can, you might want to avoid falling into a Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome; it's nice that you got yourself out of being a night owl, but you might not be able to do that the next time...

It's up to you whether you want to live a normal social life, or be a night owl and exceed in concentration.

So, you have asked:

Do I need to find out when is the appropriate time to study for me, the time when I'm at the height of my brain power and the least tired?

That's really up to you.

Just study when you feel you could study; figuring out when that is, is likely to result in procrastination...

If you want, you can use software like SleepChart (Download near the bottom) to track your sleep schedule, then you can imagine your energy/cortisol levels among the day as well as when it should be best to learn as well as when you can get the best sleep. It simply works by drawing bars of when you sleep:

enter image description here

If you do it for long enough (several months of data to get an exact graph) you can get a graph like this where blue Homeostatic graph expresses the ability to fall asleep and the red Circadian graph expresses how much hours you would sleep. Please note that 0 on the X-axis is the waking time and is not 0 AM.

The bars in the bottom were drawn manually, but are easily derived from the graph as well as your daily activities. As you can see, drinking a coffee 8 hours into this individual's day decreases the necessity to go sleep. The dots are just data points used to form the circadian graph; I believe the homeostatic graph is derived from there using a formula...

You can also see that when the cortisol levels are low you can get a lot more sleep if you were to go sleep at that moment. For this individual, there is a huge difference of 2 hours of sleep if he goes to sleep 13 hours into his/her day rather than 15 hours into his/her day.

The above graph is from someone who sleeps during a Siesta, so the Homeostatic graph might be more like the Circadian graph (not high 8 hours into his/her day) for non-Siesta sleepers.

For DSPS patients it also allows one to see the shift in sleep, more information on this and other uses of the program can be read at SleepChart (Download near the bottom).

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@Gigili: The right action is to cast a close vote, which I have already done. Using flags to ask moderators to close a question is not acceptable. Also; Good Subjective, Bad Subjective is a good read on when subjective questions need to be closed. Yet, it takes 5 votes or a binding moderator vote to close the question; while it is open, there is nothing wrong with giving an objective answer and subjective advice... – Tom Wijsman Nov 28 '11 at 16:00
@Gigili: Feel free to edit the answer. I just think it is subjective in the way that we are unsure if finding the appropriate time might or might not have enough benefits, it depends on how much the energy and concentration improves as well as how much the time is shifted. Just to give you an example; I have a light version of asynchroneous DSPS myself (that has an auto-corrective behavior but still results in delayed sleeping at night) and I find no difference in learning compared to before I developed this syndrome. Subjectivity is not necessarily bad as you can read in the above link... – Tom Wijsman Nov 29 '11 at 11:59
@Gigili: I have added a piece about software I found when commenting on your question that I started to use myself to get an idea if my sleeping habits are solid, I think it might be handy for you if you decide to experiment further. Please note that it takes some time for the graphs to adapt if you change between sleeping schedules. You might as well create a new file in such case... – Tom Wijsman Nov 29 '11 at 12:22
That's a wonderful answer now, thank you. – Gigili Nov 29 '11 at 12:25

The most appropriate time to study basically depends on you, your lifestyle, your sleep cycle etc. If you can't figure it out, there is a golden way that is still in use by some of the very great people and saints.

The golden way is Get up early in the morning just before the sunrise and study!! This method works on every human being because studying in early morning helps you to get a better understanding of the subject and help you to remember and recall what you study for a longer time.

But to get up early you have to go to bed early too. You have to make a schedule of your daily life and it should not change. Its not that you get up early only when you want to study! You should follow this routine daily. It will also keep you healthy. Make a habit of watching Sun rise and Sun set daily. This will also keep you awaken for a longer amount of time and it will also keep you in energetic and positive mood all the day.

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From my personal experience I can say that at least in my case there were periods in my life when I was one of the types and I could adapt my sleeping habits to my current occupation. During my medical school I was a morning person all the time during the term and switched to night learning for the exam session, for it was much easier to learn things undisturbed during night.

I found it also difficult to stat learning things before noon. It might be a personal thing, but I always spent time before noon to revise already learned things in my memory and started with new topics only in the afternoon to finish it by 2-3 am at night.

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