How Your Brain's Internal Clock Works
How to make your body-clock work for you
In the past, claims about hacking your "body clock" to improve productivity were often dismissed as tripe, along with modern-day productivity mongers like Bulletproof Coffee and the 4-hour weekday. However, scientists in the USA recently bagged a nobel prize for their accurate depiction of the body clock as a powerful tool.
So isn’t it time you took advantage of your internal ticker? MHenlisted Oxford University expert Dr Kelley to help you readjust your schedule and make it work for you.
- Cause for alarm:A study in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesshows that intermittent sleep due to disrupted circadian rhythms could result in obesity, cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairment. It could even make you more susceptible to cancer.
- Time to change:Men in their twenties should be waking up at 9:30am, when the hormone that controls wakefulness, orexin, kicks in and helps you get out of bed less groggy. Men in their thirties should be rising about 8:10am (sneaking in a power-nap around 3:30pm), with the over-forties surfacing at 7:50am.
But if you’re on someone else’s schedule, you’ll need to shoehorn sleep elsewhere in your schedule. “Sleep is cumulative,” Kelley states. “If you lose two hours sleep and you sleep in the next day you’re alright, but if you do it five days on the trot then you’re in trouble.” Use our tips to make dropping off easier.
- Cause for alarm: Your metabolism and circadian rhythm are interlinked. Eating at the wrong time, when your fat-burning furnace isn't fired up, can leave you vulnerable to being overweight. “You’re more likely to have efficient metabolic processes if your meals are timed with your body clock,” says Kelley.
- Time to change:Aligning your snacking with your body clock will help your metabolism fight flab. “The idea is to eat when you’re hungry, not when everybody else is,” Kelley tells us. Listen to your stomach: eat when you start to feel empty and you won’t go far wrong. This packed lunch ensures you can grab a bite at any time during the day.
- Cause for alarm:Monday-morning miles aren’t for everyone, while a workout on your lunch break falls into a beneficial no-man's land. Your body clock dictates the best time to exercise, and working against it means you’re getting no gains from those final reps.
- Time to change:“In terms of breaking records, the time of day almost always correlates with the age of the athlete,” says Kelley. Men in their twenties and thirties will need to hit the gym after work to perform at their best, asThe Journal of Applied Physiologyfound a correlation between peak performance and exercise in the afternoon.
However, forty-plus-ers looking to lose weight should train in the morning while your joints are feeling fresh to make injuries less likely.
- Cause for alarm:If you find yourself unable to do anything but browse Mail Online before 10:30am, it’s likely due to your circadian rhythm crossing wires and killing concentration. Scheduling a big project for the time of day you find cognitive tasks most difficult is a recipe for missed deadlines.
- Time to change:Blokes in their twenties generally hit their stride around midday, lasting until 8pm. Men in their thirties can focus from around 10:30am to 6:30pm – much more in line with your average workday. If you're a youngster in the office, it's probably best scheduling that presentation for the afternoon to avoid job-threatening mind blanks.
Video: Circadian Rhythm and Your Brain's Clock
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