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The Best Time to Do (Almost) Anything

Turns out, there’s a best time of day to indulge in your favorite foods, drink coffee and more.

By Rose Hayes

Most self-help experts will offer advice on what to do or how to reach your goals. But they often overlook one key ingredient for success: the when.

What if you could build your schedule around your body’s natural rhythms, performing each activity at your peak by knowing when you’re biologically primed to do so?

“I looked at over 200 studies and realized there are four chronotypes (sleep rhythms) that most of us follow, based on our core body temperature cycles,” says Michael Breus, PhD, a board certified sleep specialist from Manhattan Beach, California and author of The Power of When.

“If you understand those types, and look at known hormonal and circadian rhythms, it’s possible to match them with activities—the best time to eat, have sex, study, you name it,” says Dr. Breus.

In The Power of When, he reveals optimal times to complete 50 different activities, including when to:

  • See your therapist
  • Have sex
  • Hit the gym
  • Ask for a raise and get it
  • Plan the perfect date
  • Take your medication

Find out which chronotype you are—a Lion, Bear, Wolf or Dolphin—by taking Breus’ science-backed Bio-Time Quiz.

  • Lions are early morning risers. They tend to be leaders, go-getters and heads of companies.
  • Bears are deep sleepers, but usually hit snooze a few times. These extroverts are friendly, open-minded and easy to talk to.
  • Wolves are creative thinkers who stay up late and sleep late. They can be introverted at first, but talkative once you get to know them.
  • Dolphins are problem sleepers. They’re highly intelligent perfectionists who often stay up late so they can get the job done right.

Once you know your chronotype, you can plan your days to achieve more.

The difference timing can make
Dr. Breus first suspected success might have a lot to do with careful timing when a patient came to him for help with a sleep problem. “I thought she had insomnia,” he explains. “Until she said, ‘I don't have a hard time falling asleep, and I don't have a hard time staying asleep—I sleep at the wrong time.’”

The woman’s natural wake time was two hours later than when she had to be at her desk. Cutting her sleep sessions short was causing her to fall asleep in meetings and preventing her from getting work done. Her family life was even suffering. 

Breus had a simple solution. He asked the woman’s boss if she could come in two hours later and stay longer at the end of the day.

The result? “All of a sudden, her efficiency increased at work, she got along better with her family and her mood even improved—all from rotating her schedule by a couple of hours,” he explains. “Then we said, 'Okay, what else could we be doing at better times?’”

Start with your coffee routine
Most people roll out of bed and shuffle to the coffeepot while still half asleep. But the first two hours after you wake up are actually the worst for drinking coffee, says Breus.

Instead, there are specific times when each chronotype should have their daily cup of joe in order to achieve focused energy, minus the jitters:

  • Lions: Eight to ten a.m., plus an afternoon pick-me-up between two and four p.m.
  • Bears: Nine-thirty to 11:30 a.m., then 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
  • Wolves: Twelve to two p.m. No second cup for wolves since it can interfere with their sleep schedule.
  • Dolphins: Eight-thirty to 11 a.m., then one to two p.m.

Rather than reaching for coffee first thing, Breus recommends drinking a large glass of water. “When you sleep, you breathe out almost a full liter of fluid,” he says. “So you get dehydrated. Drinking caffeine, which is a diuretic, may cause you to lose even more water.” Dehydration makes you physically sluggish and mentally slow, so a refreshing glass of H2O can wake up your brain naturally.

The second reason to hold off on coffee is your early morning hormone levels. Cortisol, the stress hormone and adrenaline, the fight-or-flight hormone are highest when you first wake up. “These are about five-to-seven times stronger than caffeine,” Breus explains. When you drink coffee too early, you're taking a less-effective stimulant and mixing it with natural stimulants, which can lead to uncomfortable side effects like anxiety and tremors.

Caffeine can be a mild appetite suppressant too. If you skip breakfast because you’re burning through caffeine, you might wind up feeling famished by the end of the day, which can lead to overeating.

“Then all bets are off—your willpower is gone and you end up pigging out at times you shouldn't,” adds Breus.

The right time to indulge
Timing your largest meal for when your metabolism is most active can satisfy your cravings without adding to your waistline.

The first thing to consider is your “willpower rhythm.” At breakfast, you proudly slurp down your kale smoothie, but by dinner, you’re craving cheesy pizza—willpower fades throughout the day. Eating your largest meal earlier can keep you fuller longer and prevent nighttime bingeing.

Your circadian rhythm, or natural sleep cycle is closely tied to meal times, as well. When you sleep at the wrong time for your chronotype:

  • Your meal times probably get off-schedule too, which can interfere with your metabolism.
  • You’re likely exposing yourself to too much artificial light, like when you work on your laptop late into the night. That causes your body to produce less of the hormone leptin. Leptin tells your brain when your stomach is full. If you don’t have enough, you’ll want to eat all the time.

So when should you eat your biggest meal?

  • If you’re a Lion: Early afternoon, around two p.m.
  • Bear: Breakfast time, between eight to nine a.m.
  • Wolf: Breakfast time, between 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.
  • Dolphin: Brunch time, between 10 to 11 a.m.

Some studies suggest you could eat the same number of calories every day, but your body would store more calories as fat on the days you’re eating too late for your chronotype.

These simple scheduling tweaks, along with Dr. Breus’ other suggestions, can help streamline your entire routine. The Power of When has the ability to improve your emotional and physical health, and strengthen your most important relationships.

To learn more, check out his website and take the quiz at www.thepowerofwhen.com.

 

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Wellness

Wellness is a difficult word to define. Traditionally wellness has meant the opposite of illness and the absence of disease and disability. More recently wellness has come to describe something that you have personal control over. ...

Wellness is now a word used to describe living the best possible life you can regardless of whether you have a disease or disability. Your wellness is not only related to your physical health, but is a combination of things including spiritual wellness, social wellness, mental wellness and emotional wellness. Wellness is seen as a combination of mind, body and spirit. Different people may have different ideas about wellness. There is no single set standard for wellness and wellness is a difficult thing to quantify.
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