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A Time for Everything
Certain tasks are easier for most people at specific times of day, based on the hormonal and temperature changes that you go through during a normal 24-hour period. According to Michael Smolensky, who is an adjunct professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of “The Body Clock Guide to Better Health,” these time periods work best for these kinds of tasks:
8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Pain tolerance is best during this period. According to research from the National Institute of Mental Health, you are much less sensitive to pain in the morning than later in the day. The reason is not certain, but it might have to do with the release of endorphins. As a result, if you have to schedule a dental or medical procedure that might cause you pain, try to have it early in the morning.
10 a.m. to noon. Your mind is particularly sharp now, and it will dip in early afternoon before rising again in later afternoon. This is a particularly good time for reasoning power, short-term memory, complex decision-making and general alertness. For example, a study from France shows that the response rate for firefighters is fastest during these hours and again in late afternoon. It also makes this a good time for putting out figurative fires at work and for preparing for a presentation or a test.
1 p.m. to 3 p.m. During this period, you are less mentally alert and you often get sleepy. It is a kind of post-lunch down period, even if you don’t eat lunch. According to the National Institute on Aging, people are most likely to daydream about 2 p.m. As a result, during these hours you should try to avoid things that require a lot of attention, whether that is driving a forklift or going over your budget figures. Instead, use this time to take care of routine tasks, catch up on phone calls or think creatively.
3 p.m. to 4 p.m. This is the other period of peak brain performance. So use this time to attend to the thinking-heavy jobs you did not get finished between 10 a.m. and noon.
5 p.m. to 7 p.m. This is the best time for exercise, because this is when your body is likely to do best at activities that use strength and speed. This may be because these also are the hours of peak body temperature, according to Dr. Thomas W. Rowland, a pediatric cardiologist at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., and author of “The Athlete’s Clock: How Biology and Time Affect Sports Performance.” So this is a good time to hit the gym or schedule a competitive game of tennis.
11 p.m. to 1 a.m. This is the time when most people feel romantic and sexy, and in fact, it is the time period when most people report having sex, according to researchers at the University of South Carolina. However, scientists admit that may be because this is the time when most people have the time and opportunity for romance.
Of course, these are not the optimum times for everyone; Smolensky says that there can be as much as a four-hour variance in these time periods because of your individual waking and sleeping patterns, because you don’t get enough sleep or because you are exposed to light at unusual times.
The key to regularizing your personal internal clock is to keep a regular schedule of sleeping and waking, so that you can establish a circadian rhythm. And establishing a circadian rhythm, in turn, can help you sleep better and avoid sleep disturbances.