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Is Learning in the Morning Better?

As educators, we are all very focused on what we need to teach, but we give little consideration to “when” is best for learning. For adult learners there are real benefits to learning in the morning versus other times of the day.  

If we refer to chronobiology, the science of “good timing”.

The brain is in acquisition mode and most open to learning between 10 am to 2 pm and from 4 pm to 10 pm.

The brain is least effective at learning between 4 am and 7 am.

So many say morning is the best time to learn. Our brains are sharpest in the morning after a good night’s sleep (typically 8-9 hours) and breakfast, even if you had a bad night’s sleep the morning is still better than later in the day for learning.

The morning offers natural light which is good for our eyes and keeps us alert which is conducive to learning.

The morning generally gives the learner a better recollection ability, especially if the information has to be recalled from the day before, hence the recommendation to “sleep on it and think about it in the morning”. Sleeping after studying is also said to consolidate information and improve recall.

But some learners have more energy in the evening or at night where they feel there is an improvement in concentration and creativity and research shows this is primarily because there are fewer distractions, and definitely much more peace and quiet.

So, what we do know is that there is a hidden pattern to our days, and we are better off putting certain kinds of activities and learning into certain times of the day.

That is, all times of the day are not created equal.

If we understand this underlying pattern, we can begin to reorganise our days so that they are more in sync with when science says we are able to do best at certain times of the day, and this has huge implications for education and learning.

Chronotype is our propensity to either wake up early or wake up late, to stay up late, or to go to sleep early. 


You sometimes hear the terms “larks” and “owls.” 


Some people are larks, they rise early, feel energetic in the morning, and then fade out by evening.


But people typically between the ages of about 14 and 24 are “owls.” 

That is a period where, because of puberty, and changing bodies the hours of wakefulness shift forward a couple of hours. 

So, people go to sleep later in the evening and wake up later in the morning.


Just like each learner has a unique learning style, different learners may learn better at different times of the day.


Research shows it is important for the learner to think about when they are most alert and plan their learning to suit. 

Different qualities of memories and alertness seem to be better at different times of the day for different people.


Our adult learners are typically outside the between 14 and 24 “owl” age bracket and research shows learning doesn't appear to be less effective in the afternoons,  so our courses are 8.30 am to 1 pm when learners are more alert and better at learning.


Chronobiology: The Science of Time,

Can You Learn Anything While You Sleep? Live Science, , by Bahar Gholipour (March 8, 2019)

Cathi Barker

Microsoft Master Instructor

Microsoft Innovative Educator

Educator in the private and public sector for nearly 40 years

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