From waking up to winding down, try these simple changes to maximise your wellbeing throughout the day
Swap your morning coffee for an afternoon cuppa
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant: it speeds up thinking, boosts motivation and lifts mood. Within 10 minutes of your early-morning hit, caffeine sets to work on your brain by blocking adenosine, a naturally calming hormone. At this time of day, adenosine levels are naturally low, while the morning “wake-up” hormone, cortisol, is almost at maximum. A strong coffee or tea on top of that doesn’t make you more alert – it simply throws a few matches on to an already raging bonfire, promoting anxiety and jitteriness. You’re better off waiting a few hours until cortisol has waned and adenosine started to rise – then you can reap the full benefit of caffeine’s boost. Better yet, get out into daylight to boost levels of wake-up hormones. Try stretching, yoga, or gentle exercise – these all increase your heart rate, and improve blood flow to the parts of your brain that are still “asleep”.
Don’t hit snooze
The most effective alarms are noisy, triggering a primal fear response in an area deep in the brain called the amygdala. Your heart rate soars as cortisol and adrenaline stream through the body. Hitting the snooze button only makes matters worse. When the alarm shocks you awake after 10-15 minutes, you go through the same biological torment. Over time, this can lower your mood and affect your physical health: years of this contributes to the clogging of blood vessels, which can in turn increase the risk of heart problems.
Got a really early start? Hack your body clock by setting the central heating to come on at least half an hour before you wake, to mimic the temperature change as the sun rises.
Know your body clock
Everyone has a different body clock timetable (chronotype) that controls when they naturally wake, eat, work, play and sleep. A small proportion of us (14%) are primed to fire on all cylinders as soon as the sun rises (“morning larks”). Nearly a quarter of us are energised around sundown (“night owls”). The rest fly somewhere down the middle.
Larks generally do better than owls at school, live longer, and earn on average 5% more. But don’t force yourself to be an early riser: night owls’ shorter life expectancy may be due to the biological strain of trying to live by a strict nine-to-five work culture. Most of us should avoid doing anything important for the early part of the day, because in the first few minutes after waking, reaction times are 360% slower and our ability to make good decisions is 51% worse. For three-quarters of adults over 25, the brain hits primetime between 9am and noon; the body is primed for exercise between 2.30pm and 4pm; creativity peaks in the evening. (Guardian)