With endless to-do lists, many of us pay little attention to the order in which we carry out everyday activities.
But the time of day that we eat, go to the gym, and even have sex can have a significant impact on our health.
By synchronizing your activities with your internal clock, you can reduce stress, blood pressure and the risk of heart attack.
Scientists have found that it can also improve digestion and even help ward off cancer.
Greg Potter, body clock expert and host of the Reason & Wellbeing podcast, says: “Our bodies have a biological clock that produces 24-hour rhythms — or “circadian” rhythms — in many biological processes.
“Understanding when your watch is optimized for different activities and keeping it on the right time with cues — how much daylight, exercise and meal planning throughout the day, and then minimizing light exposure at night — can benefit everyone aspects of your health.”
If you’ve ever suffered from jet lag, you know what a glitch in your watch feels like.
More subtle disorders are common and can lead to many health problems.
Shift workers, for example, have a higher risk of coronary heart disease, certain types of cancer and asthma.
Even exposure to a lot of artificial light at night can lead to poorer sleep and an increased risk of breast cancer.
Then there are the clocks – not our bodies – that move on in spring.
During this transition, we lose sleep and this upsets our internal clocks, leading to a slight increase in heart attacks and traffic accidents.
dr Potter adds, “Each cell has its own clock, with a master clock in the brain that helps keep all the other clocks in sync – a bit like the conductor of an orchestra.”
“The master clock is set by your light exposure patterns. Others are also determined by when you are active and when you eat.”
Here, Sun on Sunday Health plans your ultimate daily health plan, from waking up at 6am to 7am.
7-8 p.m.: Best time for sex
The level of the sex hormones testosterone in men and estrogen in women is initially higher.
One study found that morning sex helps reduce blood pressure and stress.
But if you want to have a child, you should wait a few hours.
dr Potter says: “Sperm quality is higher if you have sex in the first half of the waking day.
“Fertility will peak between about 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.”
8 a.m.: Breakfast
“WAIT at least an hour after waking up before eating breakfast,” says Dr. Potter.
“Many of us set an alarm clock to get up and eat right away when it’s still our biological night.
“If we eat too early, there can be large swings in blood sugar.”
In general, our blood sugar responses to meals are lower in the morning than in the evening, around 8 p.m.
8:45 a.m. Go outside
If you go outside in the first two hours of the day, you can adjust your internal clock to daylight.
It helps keep the master clock ticking and increases the chances of a better night’s sleep.
10-11: Schedule work meetings
“Awareness peaks twice a day, between 10 and 11 a.m. and between 4 and 5 p.m.,” says Dr. Potter.
“Working with your brain’s natural ups and downs is important for long-term brain health because it boosts the cognitive reserve you can rely on to ward off diseases like Alzheimer’s.”
12 p.m.: A big meal
A 2022 Beijing study showed that those who eat lunch at 2 p.m. instead of noon have higher post-meal glucose levels, lower insulin sensitivity and increased insulin resistance — all factors that increase the risk of diabetes.
dr Potter explains, “Eating as much of your daily caloric intake as possible early in the day is better for your metabolism.”
4pm: Learn something new
“DR Potter says, ‘The brain’s second attention peak of the day makes this the perfect time to learn an instrument or take a dance class.’
“Exercising your mind now will boost your cognitive reserves, which will benefit you as you age.”
5-6pm: Go to the gym
DAILY exercise is key to cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health, and late afternoon performance is at its best.
dr Potter explains: “There are reasons why many world records are set in the late afternoon and early evening.
“Not only is performance at its peak at this time, but afternoon exercise can also be better for glycemic control.”
6 p.m.: Light bite
Eating dinner at 3 p.m. is impractical for most, so keeping dinner small is a better strategy.
dr Potter says, “Research has shown that a large breakfast and small dinner is better for weight loss and blood sugar levels than a small breakfast and large dinner.”
“Ideally, you should avoid consuming any calories, including drinks, within two hours of bedtime. However, herbal teas are fine.
Eating dinner early is good for metabolic health and can improve sleep and cardiovascular health.”
10-11 p.m.: Off to the hay
Quitting now may be the easiest way to heal your heart, according to a study in the new European Heart Journal.
Levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, fall while your body produces surges of the sleep-inducing melatonin, which can help scavenge cancer-causing free radicals during the dark hours.
dr Potter says, “A good night’s sleep can support physical and mental health.
“If you avoid bright artificial light from lightbulbs and phones for three hours before bed, you’ll be set for a restful rest.
“The best kind of light before bed mimics the light of fire – like in caveman times.”