Does choosing which time we do an activity really make a difference?
Have you ever wondered what would be the best time of day (or week) to do different kinds of work? Every person’s internal clock runs on the Human Circadian Timeline. Except those who have been on graveyard shift for years!
This is the schedule by which our body systems (including our brain) ‘take care of business’. Every work day is divided into cycles that match our naturally heightened abilities – both physically and mentally. The trick is to take advantage of identifying and using this information to schedule your work and life activities accordingly.
Circadian rhythms are present at birth and the body temperature cycle emerges between 6 to 9 months for infants. By the age of three the adrenal system is coordinating a complete daily cycle or timeline. The adrenal glands in coordination with our pituitary, hypothalamus, pineal glands control both our internal clock and our stress reaction.
This means our stress levels are in direct proportion to how far off we are from our natural time cycle.
Body temperature cycle doesn’t vary so much from person to person. However, our natural rhythms do shorten as we age. Mental conditions like depression in which sleep disturbance is common and physical illness of any kind disrupt the daily cycle. However, healthy people keep their innate circadian cycle throughout their life.
Although each body system has its own rhythm, generally cell replacement peaks between noon and nine pm. The skin and the liver are the only organs which replenish worn out tissues with new ones at night and this process peaks by midnight. The brain is the only organ that functions without cell replacement – So, we’d better take better care of the one we have!
Setting Your Internal Clock
To work and live at our best, we need our internal circadian rhythm in harmony or synchronized with the environmental cues (i.e., light and dark, temperature etc). Human beings grow faster, produce more offspring, enjoy better health, do better work and live longer when time setting environment cycles match.
This makes it easy to understand the fact that graveyard shift (midnight to eight am) workers experience more accidents than day and evening shifts combined. Also, that more of the worst auto accidents occur after midnight. Our bodies ‘know’ we should be asleep!
One night of short sleep does not affect overall performance. However, several nights of sleep deprivation leads to dull sensory perceptions (vision, hearing etc.), longer reaction time, slow motor coordination, reduced memory retrieval, lowered new memorization ability, as well as increased irritability. These are exactly the functions we need to do good work – including decreased irritability.
In almost all life on this planet, light is the number one influence…and most powerful internal clock setting factor. Obviously, different mammals have different clocks; cats are active at night and sleep all day and people are active during the day and sleep at night. No one had heart attacks prior to the 1800s (city dwelling, rise of industrial work using artificial light).
Number two influence is temperature…
For example, people’s sleep and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) or dream cycles are disturbed and they awake more often when the sleeping temperature is above 75 degrees. When the sleeping temperature is below 65 degrees dreams become unpleasant and contain emotional conflict. Working in a cold room increases your chances of a repetitive stress injury.
Number three is eating.
Did you know that Japanese people who are most Americanized have five times the heart disease compared to those who practice more traditional cultural habits and diet?
Number four is sounds for most species on the land and in the oceans. As you might expect, sound is an especially strong factor for auditory dominant learners like myself. Studies have indicated that among people living under the airport approach route there is a thirty percent higher rate of admissions to mental hospitals.
Regular exercise increases everyone’s cognition capability and releases stress from our bodies. For most men, the best time to exercise is in the afternoon. Women who exercise in the morning raise serotonin levels, which prompts a positive mental state.
If you exercise in the evening it disturbs the natural slowing down cycle leading to sleep. So a good thing like exercise can be even better if you know the best timing. If the only time you can exercise is the afternoon – go ahead!
We can’t live without stress – but, what we need is the right type of stress in the proper quantity and at the right time. When mental (adrenal) skills are high sensory sensitivity is low and vice versa. We were designed to concentrate on the physical or the mental – but not to peak perform in both at the same time.
Stress causes our internal rhythms to lose synchronicity. It subverts our natural circadian rhythms into a dis-ease progression which affects sleep, eating and all functions.
Stress response is the same as if you were physically wounded and losing blood. This in turn breaks down the immune system and leads to weakness to new diseases as well as injuries healing more slowly.
Physical stressors include temperature, sound, vibration, movement and humidity.
Physiological stressors include sleep disturbance, irregular eating, alcohol and nicotine (depressants) and caffeine (stimulant).
Psychological stressors: fear, frustration, social and work or business pressure.
Generally adults operate in ninety minutes activity cycle – while under stress the cycle shortens to a one hour cycle (the same as in infancy). The natural activity cycle we are programmed for is made up of 30 minutes rest followed by 60 minutes activity followed by thirty minutes rest. Being at rest doesn’t mean sleeping! It means alternating the kinds of activities you do every day for a little physical and mental variety.
The perfect ten-minute break is to drink a glass of water and walk around in the sunlight for ten minutes – wear a hat but, no shades. You want your eyes to pickup light without glare. It is remarkably refreshing to both mind and body.
Did you know an aspirin taken at seven am lasts for 22 hours but, taken at 7 pm it lasts only 17 hours? Here’s why. Our mental abilities and physical functions coordinate with our body temperature which goes through a daily cycle of warming up in the morning and cooling down at night.
No matter what time it is, the colder you are the slower your senses function. Our ability to multiply quickly and accurately varies directly with body temperature, too. This is one of the reasons why cold is a strong stress factor.
Around 4 AM we settle into our lowest body temperature and the pituitary and adrenal glands start sending out wake up hormones. Our temperature begins to gradually rise until awakening around 5 AM – 7 AM. This also gives your body the opportunity to discharge the chemicals that keep you paralyzed during dream state (so you don’t hurt yourself). Then, you can get up and move about without stubbing all ten toes.
You can trade in your morning cup of coffee for a quick warm shower because it wakes you up by increasing your body temperature, blood circulation and your breathing rate deepens.
Both men and women’s hormones flow more quickly as body temperature rises and peaks out around mid-morning.
Memory works best up til approximately noon. So for most any kind of testing mornings are best.
11AM body temperature reaches its daily plateau and remains with slight variation throughout the day.
Midday mental skills both speed and accuracy in mathematics and cognitive projects peaks out in early afternoon and then gradually declines through the afternoon.
After lunch performance level dips along with a slight temperature drop while digesting.
Heavier meals (high fat, more than 4 ounces of meat, etc.) the more physical lethargy and deeper loss of mental focus. Plus, the longer it takes our after-lunch fade to lift because digesting uses oxygen that would otherwise be available for brain functions.
Once the body has reached it’s daily temperature of 98.6 degrees, motor skills remain steady throughout the day with mechanical skills peaking in the afternoon.
All five senses (seeing hearing, feeling, touching, tasting) peak in the afternoon as well. This is one reason why an enjoyable spicy dinner tends to be an unappetizing breakfast.
Pain sensitivity takes until mid-morning to reach its daily peak and is highest between 10am and 6pm. Then, our pain threshold falls off after dinner meal and into the night.
So by late afternoon most every one of our abilities has peaked and our temperature begins to drop at night before we sleep. This is especially true after 10PM. Then, it’s “good morning”, and the cycle starts over again!
You’ll only find out if it makes a difference in your performance to align your activities with the time if you try it out and notice the improvement!
Eve Abbott’s newest book, “How to Do Space Age Work with a Stone Age Brain TM” is guaranteed to save you time while reducing your stress. The Organizer Extraordinaire pioneered in offering free online assessments to help you make your new personal organizing solutions match your individual work style.
For more proven tips, articles, interviews or teleseminars please contact Eve at: 510-528-4950 or
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