The Peak Time for Everything

Not enough hours in your day?  So much to do…so little time?  If you’re anything like me, these will be familiar expressions.

And in which case, you should be interested to learn that maybe, just maybe, you could pack more into each day if you did everything at the optimal time?

A growing body of research suggests that paying attention to your body clock, and its effects on energy and alertness, can help pinpoint the different times of day when it’s best to perform at specific tasks.

Most people organize their time around everything but the body’s natural rhythms.

But workday demands such as commuting, social events and kids’ schedules inevitably end up clashing with the body’s natural circadian rhythms of waking and sleeping.

And as difficult as it may be to align your schedule with your body clock, it may be worth a try, because there are significant potential health benefits.

Disruption of circadian rhythms has been linked to problems such as diabetes, depression, dementia and obesity.

When it comes to doing cognitive work, for example, most adults perform best in the late morning, says Dr. Steve Kay, a professor of molecular and computational biology at the University of Southern California.  As body temperature starts to rise just before awakening in the morning and continues to increase through midday, working memory, alertness and concentration gradually improve. Taking a warm morning shower can jump-start the process.

The ability to focus and concentrate typically starts to slide soon thereafter. Most people are more easily distracted from noon to 4 p.m.

Alertness tends to slump after eating a meal, and sleepiness tends to peak around 2 p.m.  But you may want to rethink taking a nap at your desk.  It turns out, somewhat surprisingly, that fatigue may boost creative powers.

For most adults, problems that require open-ended thinking are often best tackled in the evening when they are tired. According to a 2011 study when students were asked to solve a series of two types of problems, requiring either analytical or novel thinking, their performance on the second type was best when they were tired.

Mareike Wieth, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Albion College in Michigan who led the study says, “Fatigue may allow the mind to wander more freely to explore alternative solutions.”

Of course, not everyone’s body clock is the same. Morning people tend to wake up and go to sleep earlier and to be most productive early in the day. Evening people tend to wake up later, start more slowly and peak in the evening.

Communicating with friends and colleagues online has its own optimal cycles, research shows. Sending emails early in the day helps beat the inbox rush.  6 a.m. messages are most likely to be read.

Reading Twitter at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. can start your day on a cheery note. That’s when users are most likely to tweet upbeat, enthusiastic messages, and least likely to send downbeat tweets steeped in fear, distress, anger or guilt.

Other social networking is better done later in the day. If you want your tweets to be re-tweeted, post them between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., when many people lack energy to share their own tweets and turn to relaying others’ instead. And posts to Facebook  at about 8 p.m. tend to get the most “likes,” after people get home from work or finish dinner.

When choosing a time of day to exercise, paying attention to your body clock can also improve results. Physical performance is usually best, and the risk of injury least, from about 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Muscle strength tends to peak between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. as does lung function which is almost 18% more efficient at 5 p.m. than at midday.

Is there a best time to eat? Experts suggest limiting food consumption to hours of peak activity to keep from packing on pounds.  Perhaps we are not only what we eat, we are when we eat!

Foiling the Midnight Snack Attack

On-line weight loss programs, calorie-counting apps, and even Nintendo DS weight-loss coaching games are nothing new. But a novel gadget released this month by a Brazilian “diet reeducation program” takes the tactic to a whole new level.

Enter the Virtual Fridge Lock – a high-tech security device designed to foil late night fridge raids!  Subscribers to the Meta Real program can sign up to receive a giant red magnet. They then stick this on their fridge and synch it to their social networks. Once the lock is activated, the device sends a wireless alert to all their social networks whenever the fridge is opened.  By harnessing the power and speed of social media, the idea is that on-line friends will talk you off the dietary ledge by posting words of advice and encouragement. Or if your friends aren’t the supportive type – there’s always the public shame and humiliation approach.  Either way, the Virtual Fridge Lock is meant to help you stave off the midnight munchies and pass on that slice of pizza.

And while the Virtual Fridge Lock is only available to Meta Real clients, there’s a similarly humiliating app available free of charge to the general public: Aherk! offers a “self-blackmailing service” that encourages weight loss in three easy steps.

First, the dieter defines their weight loss goal. Second, in the words of their website ‘you put your ass on the line’ by uploading an unflattering picture of yourself to the site. And lastly, after your goal deadline expires, your on-line friends vote on whether or not you achieved your goal.  If, if their opinion you failed, the picture will be posted to Facebook.

Is public shaming is the key to weight-loss success or is it just a social media marketing sham?  Although, research shows that those trying to lose weight do better with a support network or buddy, we suspect there’s nothing like being publicly outed in front of your friends on Facebook and Twitter to keep you on the straight and narrow.

Love Hurts!

SRxA’s Word on Health team just returned from a memorable trip to Phoenix, Arizona.  In addition to managing a number of highly successful events, meeting many of our wonderful clients and spending some quality time with our Advisors; we were able to catch up with all the latest news from the field of asthma, allergy and immunology.

During one of the more memorable sessions, we learned that kissing and um, er, let’s just say, more intimate contact, can be fraught with danger for those with allergies, while in another we found out that everything from our makeup, to our cell phones might be making us sick.

Over the coming days we’ll be sharing the congress highlights with are readers, but in the meantime, let’s get back to kissing…

According to Dr. Sami Bahna, President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), while allergic reactions from kissing are relatively uncommon, they do occur.

Apparently, allergens from food substances can linger in a partner’s saliva up to a full day following ingestion, irrespective of tooth-brushing, rinsing, flossing  or other interventions such as chewing gum.

And if you’re one of the 7 million Americans who suffer from food allergies we’re not just talking about a passionate kiss. Even a kiss on the cheek or the forehead from a partner who has consumed an identified allergen can cause a severe reaction ranging from lip-swelling, throat-swelling, rash, hives, itching, and/or wheezing immediately after kissing.

And kissing isn’t the only form of romantic activity that can trigger allergic reactions in the highly sensitive. The ACAAI notes that sexual intercourse can pose its own hazards, given that some patients are allergic to chemicals found in spermicides, lubricants and/or latex condoms.  Even sperm can prompt an allergic reaction in some, as can the more general emotional and physical exertion of intercourse itself.

When it comes to semen allergy, Bahna said antihistamines can sometimes help with mild issues, as can immunotherapy treatments offered by allergists. Condoms can also help, as long as a person is not allergic to latex!

Despite these warnings, Bahna stressed, “I do not want this discussion to cause all people with allergies to live in fear. If your girlfriend or your wife is not very allergic to peanuts she won’t be affected by a kiss from a person who ate peanuts.”

Additionally, allergists can help determine what’s causing the allergy and find the right treatment. They have the training and expertise to treat more than just symptoms. They can identify the source of your discomfort and develop a treatment plan to eliminate it.

You can follow the ACCAI annual meeting on Twitter at #ACAAI2010.

Tweeting for the Stork

Word on Health is pleased to bring you a heartwarming story that demonstrates, in case there was any doubt, the power and reach of social media.

Smart, successful, socially aware San Francisco couple, Molly and Brian Walsh wanted a baby. When their efforts failed, they, like so many other couples, investigated in-vitro fertilization.  They had already saved about $10,000 towards the $12,000 treatment, when they found out that they actually needed closer to $30,000 for additional genetic testing of the fertilized embryos, to avoid passing on a rare, but incurable genetic disease to their offspring.

With their biological clocks ticking faster than their ability to raise the funds, the couple came up with a unique plan.  They decided to go public with their story and then host a series of fundraising parties, on-line auctions and other events.  These were announced to friends and strangers alike on their website, on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and other social media.

Response was overwhelming and as a result they have already raised an additional $8,000.

Which begs the question, if one couple can achieve this through social media, what could you achieve?  The SRxA team of social media strategists is waiting to hear from you.