Best time of day to boost your brain

A round-the-clock guide to brain health

time to change concept handwritten on chalkboard with vintage precise stopwatch used instead of O

You know you what you should do to keep your brain healthy - but did you know there's also a right time to do it? Making a few simple changes to your daily routine could make all the difference...

See also: Dementia and diet - what to eat and what to avoid

See also: Best types of exercise to ward off dementia

8am: Brush your hair with your opposite hand
Doing something as simple as putting your hairbrush in your non-dominant hand, or wearing your watch on the opposite wrist, is enough to develop new brain networks. Switching things around means the brain has to work harder – and doing it first in the morning can give you an extra boost of focus.

9am: Sort out your finances
Need to sort through your finances, fill in a tricky form, or understand a legal document? Get it done first thing. The stress hormone cortisol reaches its natural peak in the morning, giving our brains a boost of alertness, and our short-term memory is at its best too. Your personal peak performance time is affected by your age. The older you are, the earlier your peak time is likely to be – for instance, if you're aged 55, you're like to peak at 9am, whereas teenagers are more likely to peak at 11am.

The morning is a good time to learn a new language. Studies show that being able to speak two languages helps delay the onset of several forms of dementia.

10am: Go for a brisk walk and stretch
Recent research suggests that exercise may be the best defence there is against Alzheimer's disease as we enter middle age. Exercising in the morning will help to wake up your brain, as well as your body. A brisk 30-minute walk outside will make you feel more alert and improve your mood, while a 20-minute yoga session is all it takes to improve your focus and help you retain information.

12pm: Do a crossword before lunch
Crossword puzzles and word searches are a good way to exercise your brain. Make the most of the morning alertness by doing them before lunch.

1pm: Eat a Mediterranean lunch
Research shows that eating a Mediterranean diet, which includes high levels of vegetable fats like olive oil and nuts, is linked to reduced risk of dementia, as well as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Try having a salad with lots of tomatoes and olive oil and some chopped walnuts, or make a vegetable stew or hearty soup for lunch.

2pm: Have a nap
Alertness tends to slump after eating a meal, and feelings of sleepiness increase around 2pm. If you need to nap, it's best to do it earlier in the day, so it doesn't affect the quality of your sleep at night.

3pm: Do something creative
According to researchers from Pennsylvania State University, people tend to be more easily distracted between noon and 4pm. Why is this good for creativity? Feeling sleepy and distracted can actually help when it comes to creative work. A 'fuzzy' brain isn't as good at making connections between concepts – allowing for more lateral thinking.

5pm: Play badminton or table tennis
Researchers say that it's important to do strength training as well as cardio exercise. Working the muscles has a significant effect on the brain's 'executive functions' – its memory and the brain's ability to plan and organise. Carrying heavy shopping bags is one example of strength training, or you could invest in some hand weights to use at home.

According to research from the University of Texas, physical performance and muscle strength peaks - and the risk of injury is least - from around 3pm to 6pm. The lungs also function more efficiently at 5pm. than at midday, according to research. If you play sports, hand-to-eye coordination is best in late afternoon, making it a good time for a game of tennis or badminton.

6pm: Have salmon for dinner
Older people who eat oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel and sardines) at least twice a week have been found to be at least risk from Alzheimer's disease.

7pm: Go to an evening class
Older people who keep learning and stay sociable and less likely to develop dementia. Why not sign up for an evening class at your local college? You're never too old to learn – and whether you choose flower arranging, ancient Egyptian studies or creative writing, learning something new will help to keep your brain young.

10pm: Go to bed at a reasonable hour
Sleep is wonderfully restorative, for both the brain and the body. Get a good night's rest and it will help improve your memory, as well as your ability to learn.