Time of Your life

Morning

7am Wake up and have tea/beverage in bed. Got to the washroom. Have a shower.

8am Women should take the contraceptive Pill. Research reveals that women who take the Pill as part of their morning routine are less likely to forget it.

Those with no regular pattern are 10 times more likely to forget it, while those who take them at bedtime are three times more likely to miss two or more Pills a month.

8.30am Have breakfast/take vitamins. The metabolism is most active in the morning. Research shows that fats absorbed from food are less likely to be deposited in the morning than in the evening, proving the truth of the old saw "Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper".

This is also the best time of day to take vitamins, as certain nutrients are better absorbed when the digestive system is working at its peak. Taken before bedtime, some vitamins disrupt sleep, and fat-soluble ones such as vitamins A, D and E are less easily absorbed and can cause mild indigestion.

9am Visit the doctor. Injections are least pain-ful at this time of day because levels of adrenaline, the body's stress hormone that helps us withstand pain, peaks between 9am and l0am. This is also the best time of day to weight train. The back and neck muscles are strongest now and less susceptible to strain and injury.

l0am-noon Work, paint a picture, write a poem ... The brain is at its sharpest and most creative at this time of day.

Noon-2pm Have lunch. The digestive pro-cesses work efficiently at this time.

Afternoon

2pm-3pm Take a siesta. The post-lunch dip when body temperature drops and all the body systems slow down happens now.

The brain works more sluggishly in the afternoon, too, and research shows there is an increase in road accidents at this time of day, caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel. If left to our own devices, most of us would probably nod off now and this might not be such a bad thing. Research carried out in Greece shows that men who take a siesta are the least likely to suffer heart attacks.

3pm-5pm Go for an energetic aerobic work-out. Physically, our bodies are at their daily peak. Body temperature, strength and flexibility are at their highest now and most Olympic records are broken at this time. Our fingers are most flexible now at this time of day, so if you're not going for the burn, now could be the time to do something that requires nimble fingers.

4pm-6pm Do homework. Research shows that children are faster at doing arithmetic at this time of day. Figures aren't the only things to add up better now: hair and nails grow quickest between 4pm and 5pm, too.

Evening

6pm-8pm Eat, drink and be merry. Although our digestive processes are slower in the evening, the senses of smell, taste and hearing are at their most acute at about 6pm to 7pm, so now is the time for a gourmet meal in convivial company.

If you're not going out, you could always give yourself a facial: the cell membranes of the skin are most permeable and absorb creams and potions best at this time of day.

8pm-10pm Phone friends. Loneliness is hardest to cope with at this time of day. Short-term memory, which is responsible for storing things such as phone numbers that we use once and then forget, is also better. Immunity is at its peak at 10pm, too.

10pm-11pm Get ready for bed. One of the best ways to ensure you get a good night's sleep is to take a warm bath.

The gradual cooling of the body afterwards imitates the natural decline in body temperature that happens between 1pm and 3pm, preparing the body for sleep. Avoid vigorous exercise at this time of day as it can overheat the body, making sleep more elusive.

Other effective ways to wind down include turning down the heating, stripping off a layer of clothing and having a warm, milky drink. Milk contains the enzyme tryptophan, which acts as a natural tranquilliser.

Night

11pm Take hay-fever tablets or asthma medication. Hay fever - tends to be worse when you first wake up, so taking anti-histamines before you go to bed is more effective than waiting until morning, when an attack may be already under way.

Asthma attacks are more frequent at 4am because the breathing passages are narrower due to dwindling supplies of adrenaline and anti-inflammatory hormones. Taking medication before you go to bed can prevent these early morning attacks.

11pm-7am Sleep ... perchance to dream. Metabolism slows down, body temperature, adrenaline levels and heartbeat are preparing us for sleep. If we do stay awake, attention drops dramatically after midnight and even the most careful are liable to make mistakes. Accidents increase by six times between 3am and 4am.

All of which suggests that the best thing to do in the hours of darkness is sleep. Our bodies take more deep sleep, which is restorative to the brain, when we first drop off.

Hence the old saying that one hour before midnight is worth two hours after contains a grain of truth. Growth hormones responsible for repair and maintenance of the tissues are produced while we sleep, as well as melatonin, the hormone produced by the pineal gland during darkness, which regulates the body clock. Some researchers believe it is anti-ageing.

Periods of REM (dreaming) sleep increase in the early hours, so if you surface then drop off again you're more likely to remember your dreams than if you sleep right through. Most people die in the dark hours before dawn - 4am to Sam.

6am Get ready to wake up. Even before our eyes open, our body is preparing us to wake up.

Levels of serotonin, the feel-good hormone that also helps stimulate the body to be active, and endorphins, which act as natural pain-killers, begin to rise, preparing us for the day ahead. There is also a surge of the stress hormone, cortisone, which helps prepare our bodies for waking.

But Go Easy:

Leaping out of bed causes the heart rate to rise and blood pressure to soar. This is the time of day when we're most likely to have a heart attack - especially on a Mon-day morning, when it is 40 per cent more likely. Doc-tors attribute this to higher levels of stress hormones combined with a weekend excess of food and drink raising blood pressure.

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