Is LSAT Studying in the Early Morning Good?

LSAT Blog LSAT Studying Early Morning Good
Studying for the LSAT when you first wake up is not a good idea. It doesn't matter whether you wake up in the morning or afternoon.

Why? Because your brain needs time to get out of sleep mode. It's called sleep inertia.

One of my LSAT students emailed me with the following:

I was trying to take your most recent advice to heart: study 2-3 hours a day. One way to do this is to get up early and practice in the morning before work/school.

Any researcher of sleep physiology will tell you that your brain is not fully awake and capable of operating at its optimum capacity until 90 minutes after you have awoken.

More important than the actual preparation is your test day "readiness", one aspect of which is your clarity of thinking. Getting on a schedule where you are used to being up and "fully awake" in the sense described above would be important for your actual performance.

Some of your students most likely are used to sleeping from 12-1-2 am to 7:30-8 am. It would be a terrible mistake to keep this schedule the day, week, even fortnight before the test date. Establishing a schedule that allows your brain to be fully awake at 8 am on LSAT test day will be an important contribution to your performance.

Of course, that last part doesn't apply to all you June test-takers because the June exam starts in the afternoon.

However, even if you're taking the June exam, this still means you shouldn't study when you first wake up in the morning.

Here's an example of research supporting this:

Grogginess, Disorientation On Awakening More Debilitating Than Sleep Deprivation

Excerpts:
The study showed test subjects had diminished short-term memory, counting skills and cognitive abilities during the groggy period upon awakening known as sleep inertia...

For a short period, at least, the effects of sleep inertia may be as bad as or worse than being legally drunk...

The most severe effects of sleep inertia generally dissipated within the first 10 minutes, although its effects are often detectable for up to two hours...

Another study referenced in that link indicates:
[C]ortical areas of the brain like the prefrontal cortex take longer to come "on-line" following sleep than other areas of the brain...The prefrontal cortex is thought to be responsible for problem solving, emotion and complex thought."

So, if you wake up at 7AM, you're probably not going to operate at 100% until close to 9AM. While most of the effects of sleep inertia go away pretty quickly, it's the prefrontal cortex that you really need for your studying.

Problem solving and complex thought sound like LSAT-related tasks to me.

When you first wake up, do other stuff before you start your LSAT studying. Eat breakfast, shower, exercise, check email, etc.

If you do your LSAT studying as soon as you wake up, you're likely to do less than your best. The LSAT can be frustrating enough without sleep inertia - don't make things harder than they have to be.

Photo by fofurasfelinas / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0



12 comments:

  1. I postponed my LSAT untill October. I was scheduled to take it in June. I did not believe that I was ready to take it. Was that a good idea?

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  2. Yes. If you didn't feel ready, then it's good that you postponed.

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  3. Thanks for this interesting info Steve. I was thinking about this issue just yesterday and your post enlightened me.

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  4. I postponed to the October LSAT as well. I think the $66.00 LSAC charged me to change my test date was highway robbery--last year they were only charging 1/2 the price to change your date. Talk about ripping people off in a recession!

    This article was good Steve--it was always something that I thought of in the past.

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  5. Yes! I'm thrilled that there's scientific reasoning for why I can't just roll out of bed and start studying! I tried a few times and just wanted to throw myself out of the nearest window. Thanks for posting; I really needed this!

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  6. Finally, there's some justification for my early-morning laziness! Keep posting stuff like this, Steve! Lol

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  7. Thank you! I have been trying to study early morning (6-9am) for the last week. I must say it has been hard and I have even gotten very discouraged lately. I thought if I could train myself to take a test early morning I would have no problem taking the test in the afternoon. I am honestly worried about things such as what I should have for lunch prior to the exam or if I should eat lunch at all. This is actually my second time taking the test and my score has increased by 10pts on days I take the test with plenty of focus and energy. However, on days when I am tired or lack focus,my score is lower than the first LSAT test I took. Well, I just wanted to thank you for the post and I ended up venting.... :-)

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  8. Thank you for this post Steve, my girlfriend has been very cranky and taking it out on me for the last week in the mornings especially. It is like she is going through an LSAT menstrual cycle. I support her and understand that these test induced hormonal changes will be over, but until then I will continue to be a punching bag. Hopefully when the test is over I will not have to deal with post-testing hormonal issues.

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  9. Thank you, I had always wanted to take my test in the morning. I thought my brain would work its best during this time frame. You put it in perspective for me.

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  10. This was a very helpful article, but as someone taking the October test, I do have one question. I am a night owl and have been generally waking up around 7:30 a.m. - For the 8 a.m. test time, this obviously doesn't provide for the 2 hours they recommend to shake off the sleep inertia. I want my mind to be prepared and in the habit of taking the LSAT at that time, but the recommendation against studying in the AM seems to contradict this objective. Steve, what would you suggest to be the best way to go about this concern?

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  11. I presume you'll wake up earlier than 7:30AM on Test Day.

    To get used to this, you should start getting on an earlier sleep schedule at least a few weeks before Test Day.

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  12. I'm up every morning at 3:50am, in the gym by 5am and home by 6am.

    I found going to bed early (9-9:30pm) extremely helpful.

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