The Rhythm of Mental Performance

The Time of Day for Optimal Mental Performance

We often find ourselves wondering when to fit our most difficult tasks into our busy days. While scheduling may be notoriously difficult, it may be easier if you take into consideration what time of day your mental ability peaks. Science shows that our mental performance peaks n the late afternoon to the early evening, in line with our peaks in our core body temperature.

In an article published in the American Journal of Physiology, the authors examined the wealth of data that had connected our circadian rhythms to our core body temperature, and our core body temperature to our mental abilities. As noted by the authors, body temperatures change in line with our circadian rhythm, with our bodies most warm during the day and most cold at night. The authors note that studies linked body temperature to “changes in alertness.”

Another study noted that there is a “dose-response relation involving decrements in cognitive performance with respect to decline in core body temperature and complexity of tasks performed.” More generally, it seems that simply being colder can also reduce our cognitive abilities. Finally, research has found that we are most likely to be distracted between the hours of noon and 4 pm, which is before our body temperature begins to hit its peak.

However, we can take advantage of these scientific findings to organize our days to maximize our cognitive abilities. By using Rthm, you can find when your core body temperature should be at its peak, so that you can schedule your most challenging tasks around that time. 

For most people, core body temperature is at its highest around late afternoon to early evening, before it begins to lower as our bodies prepare for sleep. For most people, this peak time for body temperature – and mental ability is around 4:00 to 6:00 pm. While most people may begin their commutes home, they may want to readjust their schedules to maximize this peak time at a desk or workshop rather than stuck in traffic.

By taking the science into account, we may be able to work more effectively, simply by following the clock and our own bodies. We at Rthm recommend utilizing the app to track the best time for you to focus, and to adjust your daily routine and schedule to optimize your daily activities.