If you’re a student, that means you’ll soon be juggling exams, essays and final projects—and you may find yourself asking questions like this: Should I spend tonight studying for tomorrow’s psychology exam or should I bang out a few pages of this English essay before bed and move my psych study session to tomorrow before the test?
New research from PLoS One may provide the answer. The study shows that you’re probably better off studying for the exam tonight.
Even if you spend the same amount of time clicking through lecture slides tomorrow, you may not remember as much. That’s because sleep appears to have a stabilizing effect on memories, while wakefulness pushes them out.
In the study, subjects memorized word pairs at either 9 a.m. or 9 p.m. All were tested 30 minutes later. The time of day made no difference to their immediate memory scores. But when tested 24 hours after their original sessions, the group that did their memorizing at 9 p.m.—much closer to their nightly repose—remembered much more than those who did their memorizing at 9 a.m.
In other words, the memories made before bedtime stick better. So study this evening, get a good night’s sleep and then you’ll ace your exam tomorrow. Just don’t forget about that essay.