Study: Productivity May Depend on Body Clock

Are you a morning person? Or do you function best at night?

For teenagers, science supports the idea that they’re not morning larks – they do better with later school start times and not being forced to function at 7 a.m.

But as we grow older and have children of our own, we often experience a shift in our body clocks and begin to function better in the mornings. Instead of getting revved up at 10 p.m. for a night on the town as we did in our 20s, we’re asleep in the Laz-Z-Boy by 9 p.m.

Lumosity, the company known for online games that claim to boost your brain power, says that it recently decided to look at its users to determine when and how people prefer to train their brains, and how age may figure into the equation of performance and learning.

Lumosity researcher Daniel Sternberg says the results show in a study of 714,188 participants, brain performance peaks at different times of the day depending on the cognitive task you are engaging in.

Specifically:

  • On average, people perform better at working memory and attention tasks in the morning, and creative tasks later in the day.
  • Night owls may do better completing their critical daily tasks at night when they are most productive, and saving their creative thinking for earlier in the day. For morning people, the opposite holds true – do creative tasks at night and critical tasks in the morning.

In addition, Lumosity finds that most of its participants playing cognitive training games are most likely to train from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.  Middle-age participants are more likely to train in the evening, he says.

Such information, he says, may be valuable for bosses who are seeking better training results, or from individuals who want to boost their creativity.

“If you’re a morning person, for example, you need to crunch through your work during the morning when you’re the most focused, then let yourself have those more creative thoughts later in the day,” he says.

Have you learned to adapt your body clock to achieve maximum productivity or creativity?


Anita Bruzzese

Anita Bruzzese is a syndicated columnist for Gannett/USA Today on workplace issues and the author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy.” She has been on the Today show, and quoted in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Self.com and BusinessWeek.com. Her website, 45things.com, is listed on the Forbes top 100 websites for women.

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  • giantpenises

    Isn’t there a lot of factors to consider like stress, shit and this and that?

    [Reply]

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  • Tony

    There is no such thing as “morning lark” or “night owl”.

    There is no scientific evidence for that. There is only a shifted circadian rhythm (which equates to people getting to sleep later) and a healthy, normal circadian rhythm.

    If everyone would have good lightening (major indicator for the circadian rhythm), i.e. no artificial lightening or only red lights after sunset, they would all go to sleep approximately 2 hours after sunset and awake with sunrise (being awake during the night if the night is long).

    Here are the studies that prove my point:
    “Larks further reported fewer physical problems and less mental activity across the night as well as more adequate sleep than owls” (Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/747718)

    “Consistent with predictions, ANOVA results indicated that global self-efficacy scores of evening types were lower, as were their item scores pertaining to sleep scheduling (i.e., napping, bedtimes, rise times, and staying in bed too long) and cognitive arousal in bed (i.e., thinking, worrying, or problem solving in bed or going to bed stressed, angry, nervous, or upset) than were those of intermediate or morning types. Results of an ANCOVA showed that evening preference was associated with poorer self-efficacy when differences in sleep status were controlled. Finally, Pearson correlations and stepwise multiple regression showed evening preference and describing oneself as a poor sleeper both contributed to low self-efficacy.” (Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20370471)

    And probably the most important one:
    “The biological basis of preferences for morning or evening activity patterns (“early birds” and “night owls”) has been hypothesized but has remained elusive. [...] Circadian period was correlated with morningness-eveningness, circadian phase, and wake time, demonstrating that a fundamental property of the circadian pacemaker is correlated with the behavioral trait of morningness-eveningness.” (Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11508728)

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