Study Rhythms: When is the Best Time to Study for the ASWB?

Study Rhythms: When is the Best Time to Study for the ASWB?

Hey there, Social Worker! So, you’re gearing up to take the ASWB, huh? That’s a big deal, and we’re here to help you nail it. But here’s the thing: not all study hours are created equal.

It’s not just about how you study, but when you study. Let’s dive into the world of study rhythms and help you discover when your brain is most ready to soak up all that ASWB knowledge.

Learn more about the ASWB exam and create a personalized ASWB study plan with Agents of Change. We’ve helped thousands of Social Workers pass their ASWB exams and want to help you be next!

1) The Science Behind Study Rhythms

When we talk about study rhythms we’re not just throwing around fancy terms. There’s a whole world of science backing this up. Let’s dive deeper into the fascinating realm of our body’s internal clocks and how they influence our study habits.

The Mighty Circadian Rhythm

At the heart of our study rhythms lies the circadian rhythm. This 24-hour internal clock regulates various physiological processes, including sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, and even body temperature. It’s like our body’s personal DJ, setting the beat for our daily life.

  • Sunlight and Melatonin: Our circadian rhythm is primarily influenced by light. When it gets dark, our brain releases melatonin, signaling that it’s time to wind down. Conversely, when exposed to light, especially the morning sun, melatonin production decreases, making us feel alert.
  • Temperature Peaks and Troughs: Our body temperature fluctuates throughout the day. Research suggests that we tend to learn and retain information better when our body temperature is at its peak, which for most people is in the late afternoon.

Chronotypes: We’re Not All Made Equal

Ever wondered why some people are chirpy morning birds while others can’t function without a midnight snack? Enter chronotypes. These are basically our genetic predispositions that determine if we’re morning larks, night owls, or somewhere in between.

  • Morning Larks: Their internal clock is set for early rising and early sleeping. Their peak cognitive performance is often in the late morning.
  • Night Owls: These folks tend to feel more energetic in the evening. Their peak performance might be late at night, which is why they often find themselves burning the midnight oil.
  • In-betweeners: Many people don’t fit neatly into the morning or night category. They have a more flexible rhythm, with peaks in late morning and early evening.

The Role of Adenosine

Ever felt that afternoon slump? You can thank adenosine for that. This neurotransmitter builds up in our brain throughout the day, leading to increased feelings of drowsiness. The more adenosine, the sleepier we get. However, caffeine can temporarily block its effects, which is why that afternoon coffee can give you a study boost!

The Importance of Sleep Cycles

A good night’s rest is crucial for memory consolidation. When we study, we’re essentially creating new neural pathways. Sleep helps strengthen these pathways, ensuring that what we’ve learned sticks.

2) So, When Should You Study for the ASWB? Pros and Cons

Morning Study Sessions: Pros and Cons


  • Fresh start: Your brain hasn’t been bombarded with a day’s worth of information yet.
  • Quiet environment: The world’s still snoozing, giving you some much-needed peace.


  • Not a morning person? This might feel like torture.
  • Might need multiple coffee breaks!

Afternoon Study Sessions: Pros and Cons


  • Post-lunch energy boost: That sandwich might just be the fuel your brain needs.
  • Break from work: Use your break productively!


  • Post-lunch slump: Beware the food coma!
  • Distractions: The world’s awake, and so is your phone.

Night Study Sessions: Pros and Cons


  • Peace and quiet: Everyone else is winding down.
  • Creative peak: Some folks find their creative juices flowing at night.


  • Fatigue: It’s been a long day, and your brain knows it.
  • This study approach may mess with your sleep schedule.

3) FAQs – Studying Times

Q: How do external factors like diet, exercise, and environment influence my study rhythms?

A: Great question! These factors play a significant role:

  • Diet: What you eat can impact your cognitive functions. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins are known to boost brain health. On the flip side, heavy meals can make you feel sluggish, thanks to the energy your body uses to digest. So, if you’re planning a study session, opt for a balanced meal with protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats.
  • Exercise: Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, which can enhance cognitive functions and improve mood. Regular exercise can also help regulate your sleep patterns, ensuring you’re well-rested for your study sessions. Even a short walk or a few stretches during breaks can make a difference.
  • Environment: Your study environment can either make or break your concentration. Factors like lighting, temperature, and noise levels can influence your ability to focus. For instance, a well-lit room can reduce eye strain, while a cooler room can keep you alert. Find a spot that feels comfortable and minimizes distractions.

Q: I’ve heard about ‘ultradian rhythms.’ How do they fit into the study rhythm equation?

A: Ultradian rhythms are cycles that last less than 24 hours. The most commonly discussed one is the 90-minute rest-activity cycle. Here’s the scoop:

  • The 90-Minute Cycle: Throughout the day, our bodies and brains go through periods of high activity (roughly 90 minutes) followed by lower activity (about 20 minutes). This is why you might find yourself losing focus or feeling restless after prolonged periods of studying.
  • Harnessing the Power: To make the most of ultradian rhythms, try breaking your study sessions into 90-minute chunks. After each chunk, take a 20-minute break. This can help maintain high levels of focus and prevent burnout.

Q: Can I ‘reset’ or ‘train’ my circadian rhythm to better fit my study schedule for the ASWB?

A: Absolutely! While our circadian rhythms are genetically predisposed, they’re also adaptable to some extent. Here’s how you can tweak them:

  • Consistent Sleep Schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends, can help reset your internal clock.
  • Light Exposure: Spend time outside during daylight hours, especially in the morning. If you’re trying to become more of a morning person, exposing yourself to natural light early in the day can help shift your rhythm.
  • Limit Blue Light: Devices like phones and computers emit blue light, which can mess with melatonin production. Consider using blue light filters or reducing screen time in the evenings.
  • Mind Your Meals: Eating at regular intervals and avoiding heavy meals close to bedtime can also influence your circadian rhythm.

4) Conclusion

The lowdown on “Study Rhythms: When is the Best Time to Study for the ASWB?” Remember, it’s not just about the hours you put in, but when you put them in. Listen to your body, find your rhythm, and you’ll be acing that ASWB in no time. Good luck, and happy studying!

Learn more about the ASWB exam and create a personalized ASWB study plan with Agents of Change. We’ve helped thousands of Social Workers pass their ASWB exams and want to help you be next!


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About the Instructor, Meagan Mitchell: Meagan is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has been providing individualized and group test prep for the ASWB for over five years. From all of this experience helping others pass their exams, she created the Agents of Change course to help you prepare for and pass the ASWB exam!

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Disclaimer: This content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or clinical advice, diagnosis, or treatment