How to reset your body clock and keep your brain sharp?
As the clocks go forward, and our days get longer, a lot of us want to seize the spring and summer days. Most people think that energy and cognition peak in the morning, as our brains are supposed to be the sharpest right after a refreshing night’s sleep and nutritious breakfast. However, gender, age, nutrition, sleep and brain activity impact our ability to effectively do the daily tasks we want. The article will help you better understand your body clock and adapt healthy practices that help you achieve a lifestyle that goes hand in hand with your body’s needs.
The study of biological rhythms can help us plan our day more efficiently
Chronobiology is the study of biological rhythms which helps us with several different body functions such as body temperature, sleeping, and working memory. It examines the effects of time on biological events and internal biological clocks. Have you ever had jet lag after travelling to a country with a different time zone? That’s one of the phenomena chronobiology is examining.
When does the brain work best? Individuals’ natural tendency to prefer morning or evening activities is associated with circadian rhythms that serve as batteries for our body clocks[2,3]. A circadian rhythm is a cycle of changes in mental, physical, and behavioural characteristics that generally occurs every 24 hours. They impact our body temperature, working memory, task switching, and the sleep-wake cycle. These natural processes respond primarily to light and dark but other nutritional and behavioural factors can impact them, e.g. diet, exercise, and exposure to blue light.
Have you ever wondered whether you are an early bird or a night owl? If you have, you were trying to find out your chronotype, which is based on your natural sleeping and waking habits. In addition to regulating sleep and wake times, chronotype influences appetite, exercise, and body temperature. It is responsible for the fact that you feel more alert at certain periods of the day and sleepier at others. There are three different chronotypes distinguished: Morning, Evening, and Neither type. The Morning type is generally more conscientious and achievement-oriented than other types and achieves peak activation in the first part of the day whereas the Evening type, which reaches its best during the second half of the day, expresses a higher level of intelligence. The Neither type are most alert during the middle of the day. Chronotype is an individual difference trait that is closely linked to biological variables, such as gender. Usually, men and women differ with men being more evening oriented than women[6,7]. Studies also found that the differences between men and women diminish with time[6,1].
Plan your day to optimise your brain
Want to know what time of day is your brain sharpest? Fill out an online self-assessment tool Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire. Figuring out your chronotype can help you plan more physically or cognitively demanding tasks for the part of the day when you feel most alert and active. An Evening type could plan his meetings for the last few hours at work instead of scheduling them in the morning. Here’s a breakdown of the most active phases for the main three chronotypes:
|Morning type||Neither type||Evening type|
|8.00-12.00: Focus on deep work||10.00-14.00: Focus on deep work||10.00-12.00: Focus on lighter tasks|
|12.00-16.00: Focus on lighter tasks||14.00 - 16.00: Work on lighter tasks||12.00-14.00: Complete deep or creative work|
|14.00-17.00: Focus on lighter, less intense tasks|
|17.00-21.00: Engage in creative tasks|
Are you a night owl wondering how can you become a morning person? We’ve got good news. One interesting study found that conscientiousness and attitude toward school positively predicted change in morningness with Evening type students, meaning a positive attitude towards your morning tasks and the desire to do the task well and thoroughly can help you stay focused in the early hours.
Boost your sleep-wake cycle with exercise and nutrition
While there are loads of molecules produced during circadian rhythms we’re only going to focus on three more - the holy trinity of the sleep-wake cycle, which prepares our bodies to sleep, eat, and stay awake.
Higher levels of serotonin, melatonin, and vasopressin are associated with a better sleep-wake cycle. Your feel-good chemical, serotonin is at its highest during the day to regulate your mood while the body converts it into the sleep hormone, called melatonin, at night. As melatonin levels rise in the evening it puts you into a state of quiet wakefulness that helps promote sleep. The third molecule which stabilises the periods of sleepiness and wakefulness, called vasopressin, works its magic during the full 24-hour circadian rhythm cycle.
We can boost the levels of body clock stabiliser by standing for at least 6 hours per day and exercising for at least 30 minutes per day[11,12]. You can use an Apple Watch to help track your standing period and exercise time during the day. Physical activity and, in particular, an adequate amount of moderate- to high-intensity exercise, preferably not performed in the late evening, emerges as an important player in optimizing sleep quality and preventing insomnia. Studies show that serotonin also boosts the levels of vasopressin[14,15]. We can boost the levels of serotonin, and consequently melatonin and vasopressin by eating protein-rich foods and exercising. You can try building your diet on cheese or tofu, meat, fish and chia seeds which are full of serotonin’s building block, called tryptophan, that is converted into 5-htp which is then turned into serotonin. You can also ensure the right tryptophan amount intake by using high-quality food supplementation. brain feed has created the smallest, nutrient-dense serotonin enhancement tablet. Serotonin plays a vital role in regulating your mood and the sleep-wake cycle. You can buy the product here for £13.99 GBP. Make sure to use the code 'NEW15' at check out for 15% off for new customers.
The Mediterranean diet can help you stay in sync with your body
Food or nutrition can be a synchronizer for the circadian rhythm cycle, as potent as the external light-dark signal can be[8,16]. The timing of food intake is highlighted as a powerful environmental cue with the potential to restore the synchrony of circadian rhythms in metabolism[16,17]. Dietary intake and timing have a significant impact on sleep quality and duration. They can therefore help you sleep better while being more alert during the day which gives you the energy to take on your tasks[13,17]. Nutrition helps regulate the phase of hormonal rhythms in the brain region where circadian rhythms are generated, which can cause a phase shift in your chronotype. That means your bedtime and wake-up time will move earlier in the day or later in the day, depending on if you eat your meals earlier or later in the day[18,19].
An interesting study shows that good adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with improved overall sleep quality promoting adequate sleep duration and quality and preventing sleep disturbances. The study confirms that the diet modulates the gut's healthy bacteria and improves sleep quality.
The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional foods that people eat in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Spain, Greece, and Italy. You can follow it by eating whole grains, beans and legumes, fruits and vegetables, fish and olive oil while limiting your intake of red meat, sweets, and processed foods. You can read more about the amazing benefits of this diet here.
Make sure the changing of the clock positively impacts your body clock
The body clock is our internal time as defined by our circadian rhythms. On the other hand, the social clock shows the local time determined by the country’s policy in form of devices on walls, on wrists or phones; it is a social construct referring to the time that was selected for a certain time zone.
When it comes to the concept of “daylight saving” and the changing of the clocks, modern people simply accept the twice-annual change in time as a fact of life. When the body and social clocks are in sync we can enjoy a so-called circadian alignment where despite the changing of the clocks, our sleep-wake cycle, body temperature, and cognition function properly[21,22].
To make sure you keep your body clock in sync with the social clock, stop using electronic devices at least one hour before going to bed as the blue light that shines from the screens causes morning brain fog, eat a healthy diet and don’t eat for at least two hours before going to bed. Always prioritize daylight exposure and take a nap if you’re dealing with daytime sleepiness.
Listening to our bodies is an effective prevention method so remember to tune in!
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 Sumaili, P. (2022). Individual differences in chronotype in relation to Cognitive Abilities and Academic Achievement: A Systematic literature review of studies conducted in 2022 [Master’s Thesis]. Umeå University.
 Montaruli, A., Castelli, L., Mulè, A., Scurati, R., Esposito, F., Galasso, L., & Roveda, E. (2021). Biological Rhythm and Chronotype: New Perspectives in Health. Biomolecules, 11(4), Article 4.
 Xu, S., Akioma, M. & Yuan, Z. (2021). Relationship between circadian rhythm and brain cognitive functions. Frontiers of Optoelectronics, 14, 278–287.
 Montaruli, A., Castelli, L., Galasso, L., Mulè, A., Bruno, E., Esposito, F., Caumo, A., & Roveda, E. (2019). Effect of chronotype on academic achievement in a sample of Italian University students. Chronobiology International, 36(11), 1482–1495.
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 Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ) (2021). Calculate. https://qxmd.com/calculate/calculator_829/morningness-eveningness-questionnaire-meq
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