Why is productivity at different times of the day so different?
Many people think that the best time of day to study is when they’re at their most alert. Several studies have shown that students have the most productive and focused study sessions during this time.
However, if you’ve ever tried to force yourself to focus at 5 AM or in the middle of a dinner party (sorry for your loss), you know it’s not always so easy. Why does productivity at different times of the day vary so much?
The reason is hormones! Hormone production varies throughout our days, as well as during seasons and times of year—and these hormones affect how we feel about things like food or sleepiness as well as how much energy we have available for activities like studying.
What do sleep cycles have to do with anything?
- Sleep cycles are 90-110 minutes long.
- Your body goes through 5 sleep cycles a night, starting with the lightest sleep and ending with the deepest.
- During the first cycle of your night, you’ll be in a light sleep; during the last cycle, you’ll be in deep sleep. If your body doesn’t go through all 4-to 5 of its cycles per night, it can negatively affect your memory and learning abilities during the day (since these processes take place while someone is unconscious).
What are circadian rhythms?
When you think of your circadian rhythm, you probably think of it as the time of day when you feel most energized and productive. However, there are four stages that make up your circadian rhythm:
- Awakening (from sleep or drowsiness)
- Morningness (between being awake and feeling sleepy again)
- Peak alertness (the period of highest mental activity during this cycle; usually between 9 am and noon)
- Afternoon/evening dip (a decrease in mental performance from approximately 3 pm to 6 pm).
Why do your genes care about time zones?
The body clock is a complex system that affects the 24-hour rhythms of many vital systems in your body. These rhythms are also called circadian rhythms, which means “around a day” in Latin. They’re controlled by an internal biological clock that’s located deep within your brain and dictates when you feel sleepy, hungry, or awake.
Cells in the body have their clocks too—they control all sorts of functions from digestion to temperature regulation to blood pressure.
Genes control circadian rhythms—and they’re affected by time zones! The genetic mechanisms that control our biological clocks are sensitive to light exposure at night or during daylight hours (which is why you may feel less sleepy on a cloudy day).
Are there other factors that affect my productivity during the day?
While we’ve found that there is a general relationship between time of day and productivity, there are other factors that can affect your productivity as well. Studies show that young people tend to be more productive in the morning, while older people tend to be more productive in the evening. Your energy levels may also affect your ability to concentrate while studying at different times of day: if you’re feeling low energy, you will be less productive than if you’re feeling high energy. Additionally, if your stress levels are high or low at any given point during the day (as measured by heart rate variability), this might also affect your concentration levels when it comes time for school or study time.
How should my schedule change when traveling to a new location?
When traveling, there are a few factors to consider when planning your study schedule:
- How many time zones are you traveling to? If you’re flying from New York City to Los Angeles for one week, it will be more difficult for your body to adjust than if it were just an hour difference.
- How long are you staying? If this is a short trip with little downtime in between flights, it may not matter as much. However, if this is a longer trip where there’s more time off between flights and/or days at the destination city before or after the flight (like if I’m going somewhere warm), it might be important for me to be awake during this period so my body can acclimate better before bedtime and wake up feeling refreshed in the morning.
- How long will jet lag last? It took about three days before my body felt completely adjusted again once we landed back home from our cross-country road trip through California and Nevada last summer—and even then I was still tired on some mornings until lunchtime because we hadn’t slept well while driving across multiple states!
The time of day that you are most productive changes according to your sleep cycle and circadian rhythm.
The time of day that you are most productive and best time to study changes according to your sleep cycle and circadian rhythm.
- Circadian rhythm is an internal clock that tells us when we should be awake, asleep, or tired. It’s regulated by a part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).
- The SCN is affected by factors like light and temperature which influence our circadian rhythm.