Skip to content

    Women's Health

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    The Best Time of Day


    WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

    By Aviva Patz
    Redbook Magazine Logo
    There's an optimal time for every health move, from eating breakfast and taking your allergy meds to quitting smoking and even having sex. Here's how to tune into those magic hours to boost your everyday well-being - and your long-term health.

    There's never a bad time to do something healthy, right? Not so fast. When it comes to maximizing your health, timing is everything. That's because we're hardwired to follow a "body clock," an internal timer that tells the body whether to sleep or work, nibble a light salad or devour a hearty stew, ovulate or grab a maxi pad. "Everything in nature works on a rhythm that is defined by time — hours, days, nights, weeks, seasons, years, and more," says Matthew Edlund, M.D., director of the Center for Circadian Medicine in Sarasota, FL, and author of The Body Clock Advantage. Unfortunately, our lifestyle — wolfing down lunch at 3 p.m. between meetings, flouting our bedtime to watch The Daily Show — often throws those rhythms out of whack, which can lead to weight gain, up our risk of illness and disease, and leave us feeling sluggish and sad. But tuning in to your internal clockwork more closely has great advantages. "If you can get your innate body rhythms in sync with the food, activity, and rest you need, you can not only get healthier but even feel better day to day," Edlund says.

    Calibrate your body clock with the timing tricks below. You'll improve your workouts, gain more energy, stabilize your mood, manage your weight more easily, and even prevent and treat illness more effectively. It's health as nature intended!

    In the Morning

    Sleep an extra 20 minutes. There's no substitute for a solid night of z's, but research suggests that rising as late as you can get away with — even if it's just 20 or 30 minutes later than you usually do — can make you more relaxed during the day. Our bodies naturally crank up the stress hormone cortisol in the a.m. so that we'll get up and moving, but postponing your wake-up time can lower those levels just enough to take the edge off. In a study at London's University of Westminster, earlier risers (who woke up as early as 5:22 a.m.) had higher cortisol levels during the first 45 minutes of their day and tended to be angrier at night than later risers (who got up as late as 10:30 a.m.), regardless of how much total sleep they got. While there's no optimal wake-up time, the researchers say, set the alarm for as late as your schedule will allow. For best results, try to go to bed and wake up at about the same times every day; this will keep your body clock running smoothly.

    1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

    Today on WebMD

    hands on abdomen
    Test your knowledge.
    womans hand on abdomen
    Are you ready for baby?
     
    birth control pills
    Learn about your options.
    insomnia
    Is it menopause or something else?
     
    woman in bathtub
    Slideshow
    period
    VIDEO
     
    bp app on smartwatch and phone
    Slideshow
    estrogen gene
    Quiz
     

    Send yourself a link to download the app.

    Loading ...

    Please wait...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Blood pressure check
    Slideshow
    hot water bottle on stomach
    Quiz
     
    question
    Assessment
    Attractive young woman standing in front of mirror
    Quiz