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Postgres guides/Functions/Date / Time functions

Postgres current_timestamp() function

Get the current date and time

The Postgres current_timestamp() function returns the current date and time with timezone. The now() function is an alias.

This function is particularly useful for timestamping database entries, calculating time differences, or implementing time-based business logic. For example, you can use it to record the time a user logs in, or when the status of a purchase order changes. Fetching the current time information can also be used to calculate time-based metrics and schedule periodic tasks.

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Function signature

The current_timestamp() function has two forms:

current_timestamp -> timestamp with timezone

This form returns the current timestamp with timezone at the start of the current transaction. Note that there are no parentheses in this form.

current_timestamp(precision) -> timestamp with timezone
  • precision (optional): An integer specifying the number of fractional digits in the seconds field. It can range from 0 to 6. If omitted, the result has the full available precision.

Example usage

Let's consider a table called user_logins that tracks user login activity. We can use current_timestamp to record the exact time a user logs in.

CREATE TABLE user_logins (
  user_id INT,

This INSERT query adds a new login record with the current timestamp.

INSERT INTO user_logins (user_id, login_time)
VALUES (1, current_timestamp);

SELECT * FROM user_logins;

The SELECT query retrieves the login record, showing the user ID and the timestamp of the login.

user_id |          login_time
       1 | 2024-06-25 07:31:32.85829+00
(1 row)

We can also specify current_timestamp as the default value for a timestamp column when creating the table. For example, consider the query below, where we set up a table to track purchase orders and add some records:

CREATE TABLE purchase_orders (
  order_date TIMESTAMP WITH TIME ZONE DEFAULT current_timestamp

INSERT INTO purchase_orders (order_id)
INSERT INTO purchase_orders (order_id)

This query creates a table to store purchase orders, with the order_date column set to the current timestamp by default. When inserting new records, the order_date column will automatically be populated with the current timestamp.

SELECT * FROM purchase_orders;

This query retrieves all purchase orders, showing the order ID and the timestamp when each order was created.

order_id |          order_date
        1 | 2024-06-25 07:39:15.241256+00
        2 | 2024-06-25 07:39:15.307045+00
(2 rows)

Advanced examples

Use current_timestamp to query recent data

We can use current_timestamp in a SELECT statement to compare with stored timestamps and fetch recent records. For example, to retrieve all login records from the past 6 hours, you can use current_timestamp in the WHERE clause:

WITH user_logins(user_id, login_time) AS (
    (1, current_timestamp - INTERVAL '2 hours'),
    (2, current_timestamp - INTERVAL '12 hours'),
    (3, current_timestamp - INTERVAL '23 hours'),
    (4, current_timestamp - INTERVAL '1 day 2 hours'),
    (5, current_timestamp - INTERVAL '30 minutes'),
    (1, current_timestamp - INTERVAL '45 minutes'),
    (2, current_timestamp - INTERVAL '18 hours'),
    (6, current_timestamp - INTERVAL '5 minutes')
  current_timestamp - login_time AS time_since_login
FROM user_logins
WHERE login_time > current_timestamp - INTERVAL '6 hours';

This query retrieves all logins from the past 6 hours and calculates how long ago each login occurred.

user_id |          login_time           | time_since_login
       1 | 2024-06-25 05:48:53.094862+00 | 02:00:00
       5 | 2024-06-25 07:18:53.094862+00 | 00:30:00
       1 | 2024-06-25 07:03:53.094862+00 | 00:45:00
       6 | 2024-06-25 07:43:53.094862+00 | 00:05:00
(4 rows)

Specify timestamp precision for current_timestamp

You can specify the precision of the timestamp when needed:

    current_timestamp(3) AS ts_with_milliseconds,
    current_timestamp(6) AS ts_with_microseconds,
    current_timestamp(0) AS ts_without_fraction;

This query computes the current timestamp value with different levels of precision: milliseconds, microseconds, and without fractional seconds.

ts_with_milliseconds    |     ts_with_microseconds      |  ts_without_fraction
 2024-06-25 07:52:14.903+00 | 2024-06-25 07:52:14.903483+00 | 2024-06-25 07:52:15+00
(1 row)

Use current_timestamp with triggers

You can use current_timestamp in combination with a default value and an update trigger to automatically maintain creation and modification timestamps for records. For example, run the following query to create a table storing articles for a blog:

CREATE TABLE articles (
  title TEXT,
  content TEXT,
  created_at TIMESTAMP WITH TIME ZONE DEFAULT current_timestamp(3),
  updated_at TIMESTAMP WITH TIME ZONE DEFAULT current_timestamp(3)

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION update_modified_column()
    NEW.updated_at = current_timestamp(3);
$$ language 'plpgsql';

CREATE TRIGGER update_article_modtime
EXECUTE FUNCTION update_modified_column();

INSERT INTO articles (title, content) VALUES ('First Article', 'Content here');
INSERT INTO articles (title, content) VALUES ('Second Article', 'Content here');

This query creates a table to store articles, with columns for the title, content, and creation and update timestamps. It also defines a trigger that updates the updated_at column whenever an article is modified. To verify, run the following query that updates the content for the first article:

SELECT pg_sleep(1); -- simulate some delay before update

UPDATE articles SET content = 'Updated content' WHERE id = 1;
SELECT * FROM articles;

This query returns the following output, showing the updated content and the update timestamp for the first article:

id |     title      |     content     |         created_at         |         updated_at
  2 | Second Article | Content here    | 2024-06-25 08:04:50.343+00 | 2024-06-25 08:04:50.343+00
  1 | First Article  | Updated content | 2024-06-25 08:04:50.277+00 | 2024-06-25 08:04:57.297+00
(2 rows)

Additional considerations

Timezone awareness

current_timestamp returns a value in the timezone of the current session, which defaults to the server's timezone unless explicitly set in the session. This is important to note when working with timestamps across different timezones.

Alternative functions

  • now() - An alias for current_timestamp.
  • transaction_timestamp() - Returns the current timestamp at the start of the current transaction. Equivalent to current_timestamp.
  • statement_timestamp() - Returns the current timestamp at the start of the current statement.
  • clock_timestamp() - Returns the current timestamp, changing even within a single SQL statement.


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