Whether you want to lose weight, think clearly, or sleep soundly, the answer lies in your circadian rhythm, says Professor Russell Foster.
The last few years have been a time of great change and many of us have been thinking about how to restart and reorganize life after the pandemic.
If that is you, then Professor Russell Foster could be just the right person to talk to.
A circadian neuroscientist with over 40 years of experience, he believes we all have the tools to optimize our lives.
The answer? Take control of our internal clock.
“At noon and midnight we are different creatures, constantly adapting to the demands of living on a planet that spins 24 hours a day,” says Russell.
“But whether we want to eat better, sleep better or work better, we all have the power to improve our performance. It’s about doing things at the time of day when our bodies and minds are in overdrive.”
In the past, he says, we’ve tended to override or ignore our body clocks, eat when we want, stay up late and sleep late, live life on our terms.
But by understanding our body clock and knowing exactly what it needs and when, we can improve our lives. And in these post-pandemic times, there’s never been a better time to start.
“One size doesn’t fit all, but the principles are the same no matter who you are,” says Russell.
“Follow my exclusive guide and learn how you too can beat your body clock.”
WHAT IS YOUR BODY WATCH?
Your internal body clock, or circadian rhythm, is a 24-hour cycle that runs constantly, ensuring we carry out essential processes like eating and temperature, and regulating the timing of each. One of the most important and well-known is our sleep-wake cycle, which determines when we fall asleep and when we start the day.
Our internal clock is directly influenced by environmental influences, especially light, which is why circadian rhythms are tied to the day-night cycle. When we do things that aren’t in sync with our natural circadian rhythm, it can lead to health problems, fatigue, and weight gain.
You want… SLEEP WELL
Sleep doesn’t come in one size fits all, and it’s up to you to find out if you’re getting enough. While some people can get by in six hours, others need eight or more.
If you can function normally during the day, you’re probably getting the right amount of sleep. But if you’re tired and irritable and you’re gulping down coffee, you probably need more.
This is where timing comes into play. Start by going to sleep an hour earlier than you normally would. The hour before bed is just as important. This is an important relaxation time to put your body into sleep mode.
Avoid caffeine as it blocks the receptors in the brain that detect when you are getting tired.
And since sleep’s great enemy is stress, you need to relax. Try yoga, mindfulness, or whatever works for you.
Turn the lights down around the house for about 30 minutes before bed and turn off screens, including phones and televisions – anything that “warns” you. This will encourage the right mindset that will help you drift off.
Get outside as soon as possible in the morning to catch some morning light. This sets your internal clock for the coming day and stabilizes your sleep-wake cycle.
You want to… MAKE DECISIONS
Our cognitive abilities and ability to process information both increase sharply when we wake up in the morning, peaking around 11 a.m. in the late morning for most adults.
On the other hand, between 3am and 5am, our concentration and ability to process information is worse than if we were legally drunk. Considering the volume of traffic, most accidents happen on the road here.
So if you want to think clearly, try to make those important decisions late in the morning.
The phrase “sleep on it” is also supported by science, as the brain is actively working on problem solving while we sleep, making morning decisions easier to make.
You want to… TRAIN
To get the most out of your body, try a two-pronged approach when it comes to timing your workouts.
If you exercise before breakfast, you’re still in sleep metabolism mode and therefore burn stored fat while you move. So try a short burst when you wake up, think 10 or 20 minutes.
Then we take in calories during the day and burn them as energy to function.
Our metabolism rises first thing in the morning, as does core body temperature, muscle strength, power and our ability to sustain movement, and this continues throughout the day. The sporting peak is in the late afternoon and early evening. People who organize athletics tournaments like the Olympics know this, and that’s why the finals are always held at this time, because this is the time when people can best develop muscle strength.
Simply put, you can do more for longer later in the day. So if you want a longer workout that burns off your daily calories instead of storing them as fat later, try a 5pm run.
You want to… LOSE WEIGHT
It used to be a big breakfast and lunch and then a light dinner. But societal changes have brought that change greatly, and now we’re seeing many people skip breakfast and end up eating their biggest meal at the end of the day. But eating this way makes us prone to obesity and also to diabetes. This is because the gut and stomach clear faster during the day than in the evening, and if we eat at the wrong time we are much less likely to be able to clear glucose later in the day. This is then stored as fat.
So if you want to be healthier, eat earlier.
Breakfast and lunch should be when you consume the most calories, and dinner should be light and as early in the evening as possible.
Research shows that people who eat concentrated calories in the morning lose more weight and at a faster rate than those who eat them later in the day before bed.
You want… GREAT SEX
The preferred time of day for sex is different for men and women. Some research has found that women prefer sex in the evening and it is thought that this is due to increased levels of relaxation.
However, men have a morning testosterone surge. In young men it is even up to 50 percent higher than at other times. In addition, sperm are more mobile in the morning. So not only are there men who prefer sex, there’s also an argument that having sex in the morning is likely to give you a better chance of conceiving.
You want… A MOOD BOOST
We tend to be happiest around 11am in the late morning. This is because we feel most awake.
A tired brain remembers negative thoughts and experiences, and making judgments based on negative thoughts and feelings can put you in a more depressed state.
We can be more impulsive and irritable and less empathetic. We have a negative view of the world when we are tired. The exact opposite is true when we are feeling energetic. We tend to be creative, spontaneous and happy.
- Life Time: The New Science of the Body Clock and How It Can Revolutionize Your Sleep and Health by Professor Russell Foster (£16.99, Penguin Life) is available now
https://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/how-lose-weight-think-clearly-27331731 How to lose weight, think clearly or sleep soundly by beating your internal clock