Do you get tired around 2:00 pm every day? If you do, you aren’t alone. For many, this is a common occurrence, and there can be a number of reasons. But what can you do to avoid the mid-afternoon slump? Let’s look at some of the causes and go from there.
If you are an early riser, you are more likely to feel tired between 2:00 and 4:00 pm. People who wake up early in the morning may actually need a nap because their body’s natural sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm) has kicked in. Around this time of day, there is a dip in your core body temperature, which triggers the release of melatonin. The same thing happens in the evening, although it occurs on a larger scale. This is why some cultures have afternoon siestas or why some companies are creating workplace opportunities for an afternoon power nap. Human beings are physically designed to have two periods of sleep a day.
The other challenge that tends to occur at this time of the day is the post-lunch sugar crash. Especially if you have consumed a high simple carbohydrate meal (bread, pasta, chips, cookies) at lunchtime. Simple carbohydrates enter the bloodstream quickly, providing a quick spike in your blood sugar, resulting in a burst of energy followed by a crash that can leave you feeling tired and cranky. The natural response is to get more of whatever made you feel energetic and happy in the first place – simple carbs – and then the cycle continues.
Another reason could be dehydration. If you are dehydrated, even a little, it can affect how tired you feel. Water is energy, so keep water at your desk all day.
Now that we know some of the common causes of afternoon crashes, how can we avoid them? There are a number of things that can help with energy and a feeling of awakeness. Here are some tips:
• Get up and get moving. Sitting or doing the same job hour after hour sends signals to your body that you are at rest. When that mid-afternoon slump starts to cloud over you, instead of another cup of coffee or the quick carb/sugar fix, get up, go for a walk around your office, or if you can, go outside. Play music or find a place to do some light exercise. Your body will not stop producing melatonin but tricking your body during your slump time is an excellent way to get past the slump hours.
• Try essential oils. Orange, lemon, eucalyptus, peppermint and fennel seed can all make you feel more energetic and awake. Dab a drop or two on your wrists or in the the palm of your hands, cup your hands around your nose and inhale slowly.
• Eat or drink something that’s healthy and not sugary. EmergenC packets added to your water provide a nice pick-me-up with no sugar crash afterwards. If you are not in a situation where you can get up and move for a few minutes, try nibbling on healthy foods. Choose crunchy carrots or celery with no dip. The goal is to distract you long enough to get past the slump.
• Eat some protein. Mid-afternoon is also a good time of the day to have a protein shake, or a spoon of peanut butter, as long as it is not a mostly sugar shake or a sugar-added peanut butter. The protein will provide a slow release of energy and protein may reduce the sleep-promoting serotonin, and boost levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, which improve alertness.
Photo from here, with thanks.