Research shows that a significant minority of people function on one of two particular chronotypes… morning people, who usually wake up and go to bed earlier, and evening people who tend to rise later, move slower in the morning and stay up later. Of course, the demands of life, like work, kids’ activities and social engagements don’t always synchronize with our body’s natural or circadian rhythms! A growing body of research is suggesting though that listening to the body clock can have an effect on alertness and energy. Steve Kay, a professor of molecular and computational biology at the University of Southern California believes that most adults perform cognitive work best in the late morning. Body temperatures rise just before awakening, and continue to increase through the morning. Alertness, concentration and working memory improve as the morning continues. Typically, the ability to focus and concentrate starts sliding after lunch. Are there optimal times to eat? Experts say to keep from gaining weight, consume your meals during your hours of peak activity. “We are not only what we eat, we are when we eat,” said Kay.
Is there a peak time for exercising? Physical performance is usually greatest, and the risk of injury least, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. says Michael Smolensky, an adjunct professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Texas, Austin. However, for many people finding the time to exercise on a regular basis is a challenge, let alone engaging in it at the ideal time for the body’s natural rhythms. Common sense should be the rule – take your neighborhood walk or jog when you can fit it in!
Researchers have also looked at the ideal time for communicating with friends and colleagues via email. Sending emails in the morning helps people stay ahead of the inbox rush – 6 a.m. messages are most likely to be read. “Email is kind of like the newspaper. You check it at the beginning of the day,” says Dan Zarrella, a social-media scientist for HubSpot, a marketing firm in Cambridge, Mass. Finally, studies have shown that fatigue can actually enhance creative powers. A large study looked at adults working through problems that required open-ended thinking – where there was no obviously right answer. Surprisingly, more people performed better at non-peak times of day when they were tired – possibly because fatigue allowed their minds to wander, allowing them to look at alternative solutions….. WSJ.com 10/1/12