Before the last test, Andrew told us the test would be open for 24 hours and we could take it whenever we wanted within the time frame. He mentioned that we could take the test at midnight and then try again when we wake up. I attempted to do this, although I usually don’t do schoolwork that late, and found it impossible to focus. Which made me wonder: when is our brain most awake?
Image from here
An article for NBC News suggests it varies for each person, and is based “largely on your sleep pattern, exposure to light, and genetic makeup.” Meaning there is no unanimous peak performance time for everyones brain. Which makes sense because some people are night owls, while others are morning people.
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) in order to capitalize on the amount of time your brain is awake and alert, you need to stick to a routine. The NSF explains that two factors control our sleep cycle: the circadian biological clock and homeostasis. Both serve two different purposes. The circadian biological clock “regulates the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day.” While homeostasis “helps us maintain enough sleep throughout the night to make up for the hours of being awake.”
Slight changes can cause disruptions to both cycles, such as: not going to bed at a consistent time, frequent napping, and drinking caffeine or sugary drinks before trying to go to sleep.
Melatonin is a natural aid to controlling your sleep-wake cycle. According to the Mayo Clinic levels of melatonin in the blood are highest at night.
Melatonin does not make you fall asleep, it simply aids in regulating your sleep cycle. Which explains why I was unable to focus on doing the test late at night. Normally, on a Monday night after midnight I am already asleep, and if i’m still awake i’m usually not doing schoolwork. Meaning my brain was preparing to enter the sleep-cycle and the level of melatonin in my blood was increasing. Although I felt awake enough to take the test, my brain was not.
The takeaway from all of this, is that in order to maximize your success on assignments, work on them when your brain is most awake. In order to do this, get in a routine and stick to it. Your brain and GPA will thank you later.