This Is Why Your Internet Slows Down at Night
Weekday evenings are peak hours for most internet users. That’s when people spend the bulk of their time streaming videos, downloading files, and playing online games—and your internet can slow down at night as a result.
What can you do about this daily nuisance? Thankfully you’ve got some options. We put together a guide to help you figure out why your internet keeps going out at the same time every night and how you can keep your Wi-Fi running smoothly.
When are peak internet hours?
Peak internet hours traditionally fall between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. on weekday evenings. People are typically done with work or school around this time, giving them more free time to spend on the internet.
You may experience peak hours at other times of the day now too since millions of Americans are spending more time working and studying from home. Basically, you’ll experience what’s called “internet rush hour” at times when there are many people on the internet at once. Just as a highway can fit only so many cars, an ISP can handle only so many people online.
Pro tip: Test your internet speed
Take our speed test to see what kind of Wi-Fi speed you’re getting. You can also try taking the test a few times throughout the day to gauge whether it slows down in the evenings.
Why does network congestion happen?
Network congestion usually happens because of bandwidth bottlenecks that result from internet providers serving lots of customers in a local service area. Network congestion can also happen in your home if you have a lot of users on your Wi-Fi.
Like your router, a local network has a limit on how much data it can handle easily. If too many users are sending and requesting data through the same network, they’ll have to wait longer for it to arrive or reach the ISP.
Activities like streaming on Netflix and playing online games take up a lot of speed and data, and increased demand makes it inevitable that your connection will slow down a bit during peak hours. Cable internet is particularly susceptible to network congestion and slowdowns at night. Your cable connection is routed through an area network node, with a base level of bandwidth shared by your whole neighborhood.
But the amount of congestion you have to deal with depends on other factors as well. Generally, network congestion will be more of an issue for you if you do any of the following.
- Live in a big household with three or more roommates
- Live in a densely populated neighborhood
- Have the same internet service provider (ISP) as most of your neighbors
- Use satellite internet, which has slow speeds and strict data policies
On the other hand, fiber providers and some DSL providers have fewer issues with network congestion because of the number of users on their networks and how the network is wired into your home.
What happens when there is congestion on your ISP’s network?
|Effects of network congestion||What it means for you|
|Download speed decreases||Longer time to download files|
More buffering for video streams
|Upload speed decreases||Longer time to upload files|
Slower connection on video chat
|Ping rate increases||Noticeable delay in online gaming|
Lagging connection in Bluetooth devices
Network congestion leads to decreased internet speeds and higher ping rates for internet users. Downloads take longer, videos buffer more, and latency leads to slower response times in online gaming and with smart devices.
Why does your ping rate increase at night?
Your ping rate increases at night because of network congestion during peak hours. The “ping rate,” also known as latency or lag, is the slight delay that happens when you send signals back and forth between the network and your device.
The nightly increase happens for the same reason that your upload and download speeds decrease—because your internet provider is struggling to keep up with demand from a lot of users. When you have a higher ping rate, the delay gets longer. This can have a big impact on internet activities that depend on quick response times, like online gameplay and video chat sessions.
How can you keep your internet from slowing down at night?
You can keep your internet from slowing down at night by using the 5 GHz band on your router, limiting the number of users on your Wi-Fi, and adjusting your schedule so you’re not tackling bandwidth-heavy tasks during peak hours.
Here’s some tips and tricks to get your Wi-Fi flowing in a more gravy-like fashion during peak internet usage hours:
Use the 5 GHz band on your router
If you have a dual-band router, you can boost your capacity for hitting higher speeds by using the 5 GHz band.
Many routers come with two separate frequency bands that give you access to a Wi-Fi connection. The 2.4 GHz band has a longer range but a relatively slower capacity for speed (topping out at 600 Mbps). The 5 GHz band has a shorter range but is better if you need to hit max speeds, since it lets you hit speeds of up to 1,300 Mbps.
Download files ahead of time
To avoid excessive download times, download your files during the daytime when the network isn’t as crowded. You can also download a movie file ahead of time instead of streaming it to cut the buffering time you’ll experience on an overloaded network.
Limit the users on your Wi-Fi
If you’re having repeated slowdowns at night, then kindly ask your roommates or other family members to be mindful about excessive internet use during peak hours.
If you really need to lay down the law, though, some routers let you see who’s connected to your Wi-Fi. So you can kick off any bandwidth hogs or unwelcome neighbors that somehow got a hold of your password (another reason to add a password to your Wi-Fi if you haven’t).
Plug your computer into your router via Ethernet
You can give your internet speed a good bump by plugging your computer into your router using an Ethernet cable. That will cut down on interference because you’ll swap the wireless connection of Wi-Fi for a wired one, giving you a more direct internet signal.
The results may not be a lot faster than what you had before, but it could make a significant difference—letting you stream a movie on Netflix without any buffering, for example.
Upgrade your internet
|Internet speed||What you can do|
|0–5 Mbps||Check email, browse on Google, stream HD video on 1 device|
|5–40 Mbps||Stream HD video on up to 3 devices, play games online, operate 1–2 smart-home devices|
|40–100 Mbps||Stream 4K video on 2–4 devices, play online multiplayer games, download big files, operate 3–5 smart-home devices|
|100–500 Mbps||Stream 4K video on 5 or more devices, download files very quickly, operate 5 or more smart-home devices|
|500–1,000+ Mbps||Stream 4K video on innumerable devices, download and upload files at top speed, do practically anything on multiple devices simultaneously|
It could be that your internet simply isn’t fast enough to meet your needs, even during non-peak hours. You can solve that by upgrading to a faster internet package. Call up your ISP and see what customer service can get you.
Not sure how fast your internet should be? Take a look at our How Much Speed Do I Need? tool to get an idea of how much bandwidth you’ll want on your network.
If you’ve tried everything and your internet still goes out at night or during other peak usage times, consider switching providers to get a more reliable connection.
Fiber internet is faster than cable internet and doesn’t have the same frequent slowdown issues, making it an ideal alternative. DSL internet is another option worth considering since it routs directly into your home through your telephone wiring rather than through a neighborhood node. But DSL’s overall speeds are slower than cable, topping out at a max of 100 Mbps compared to cable’s max of 1,000 Mbps.
Type in your zip code below to see if you can find a faster internet provider in your area.
Want to end slowdowns for good? Get fiber internet
Fiber internet is the fastest and most reliable type of internet you can get. It’s far less common for you to experience slowed speeds during peak hours on a fiber network because fiber has more bandwidth and is less prone to congestion. It runs over fiber-optic cables, vastly reducing the amount of interference from what users would experience on coaxial cable networks.
Best fiber internet providers
|AT&T Fiber||300–940 Mbps||$35.00–$60.00/mo.*||California and 21 other states in the South and Midwest||View Plans|
|Google Fiber||1,000–2,000 Mbps||$60.00–$70.00/mo.||12 cities and counties across the United States; 7 additional cities have Google Webpass||View Plans|
|Frontier FiberOptic||50–940 Mbps||$49.99–$79.99/mo.†||29 states including California, New York, and Texas||View Plans|
|EarthLink||80–1,000 Mbps||$69.95–$99.95‡||49 states||View Plans|
*for 12 mos, plus taxes & equip. fee. Autopay & Paperless Bill req’d. $10/mo equip. fee applies
†for 12 months. Actual speeds may vary. One-time charges apply. Service subject to availability and all applicable terms and conditions.
‡with a 12 month contract.
Fiber availability isn’t widespread, so you might not be able to get it in your area. It also tends to cost more than other internet types. But if you can get it, go for it. It’s well worth the money. And it usually comes with extra perks, too, like unlimited data.
FAQ about why your internet slows down at night
Why is my internet so slow at night?
Your internet is slow at night due to network congestion. All your neighbors are likely using the internet at the same time, which will slow down your connection. You may also have slow internet at night if a lot of people are using your home Wi-Fi at the same time to stream, play online games, and do other bandwidth-heavy activities.
Does DSL internet slow down at night?
DSL internet isn’t known to slow down at night in the same way that cable often does. A DSL connection is routed into your home through your landline phone network, giving a more direct route to internet service compared to a cable provider. But DSL is slower than cable overall, and its connection will degrade in reliability and speed if you’re far away from your provider’s network hub.
Does Spectrum Internet slow down at night?
Like many cable providers, Spectrum Internet can slow down at night if there are a lot of users on the internet at the same time. Peak hours for internet activity happen between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. on weeknights, but Spectrum and other cable providers’ speeds can also slow during other high-traffic periods as well.
Author - Peter Holslin
Peter Holslin has more than a decade of experience working as a writer and freelance journalist. He graduated with a BA in liberal arts and journalism from New York City’s The New School University in 2008 and went on to contribute to publications like Rolling Stone, VICE, BuzzFeed, and countless others. At HighSpeedInternet.com, he focuses on covering 5G, nerding out about frequency bands and virtual RAN, and producing reviews on emerging services like 5G home internet. He also writes about internet providers and packages, hotspots, VPNs, and Wi-Fi troubleshooting.
Editor - Aaron Gates