What causes the mid-day slump? According to chronobiologists, our mid-afternoon drowsiness can largely be attributed to the body clock in the hypothalamus, which, in interaction with the sleep drive, produces a dip in alertness in the afternoon. Other experts point to body temperature as another factor in the mid-day slump, which varies throughout the day and is markedly lower during the afternoon. Circadian rhythms have also been proven to influence when we’re sleepy.
Luckily, there are ways to overcome mid-day fatigue, and some of them are downright simple! Consider trying the following strategies:
1. Drink more water.
It’s essential to hydrate throughout the day, as tiredness and loss of concentration are symptoms of dehydration. “Drinking ample water through your workday ensures that you don’t feel fatigued and drained out, curbs your sweet and caffeine cravings, and the restroom breaks ensure you get up to stretch and aren’t sitting for too long at your desk,” says the Proprietor of Scale Beyond Scale and Mumbai-based Nutritionist Tehzeeb Lalani. Most experts recommend drinking six or eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day.
2. Get up and out.
A change in scenery can do wonders for your tired mind. “If you’re in the midst of an energy slump, head outside for a quick run or brisk walk,” says Dr. Caroline Apovian, the Nutrition and Weight Management Center Director at the Boston Medical Center. “This helps to beat fatigue and improves mood.” In addition, exposure to natural light helps increase awareness, and studies suggest that walks can improve concentration and reduce stress.
3. Eat foods that help combat fatigue.
“Some mid-day slumps come from poor food choices,” says Dr. Apovian. “Refined carbs, like white bread, pasta, and rice, or added sugars will all spike the blood sugar, followed by a crash. This feels like a depletion of energy, fatigue, and cravings for more sugar. Substitute these foods for whole foods like lean protein sources, whole grains, and lots of fresh produce.” Some additional options for healthy snacking:
- “Try adding avocado to your breakfast or lunch,” says Rebecca Weible, founder of Yo Yoga! “Not only does the healthy fat and protein in the avocado keep us feeling satiated longer, but this miracle fruit also helps to minimize blood sugar fluctuations which are a big culprit in why we feel tired mid-afternoon.”
- “Nuts are a great food to help combat fatigue mid-day,” says Courtney Ferreira, a registered dietitian and owner of a nutrition consulting business www.realfoodcourt.com. “Many people reach for sugary and carbohydrate-dense foods when they get the mid-day slump. However, these foods perpetuate the problem. People can combat this by combining a healthy fat, such as nuts, with their carbohydrate of choice, such as fruit. Just be sure to avoid nuts with sugary coatings!”
- “Dried figs, almonds, pistachios, dates, and dried apricots are easy to source, carry and eat,” says Lalani. “Keeping one or more of these in a jar at your desk is a brilliant idea so that you don’t find yourself walking to a vending machine for a candy bar when you need a snack. Packed with essential micronutrients and fiber makes, it a great snack.”
“Taking stretch breaks has incredible benefits for your body and mind, including oxygenating your muscles and pumping the bloodstream through deep, concentrated, quality breath; opening joints through movement; and waking up the body, thus rejuvenating the mind to avoid that mid-day slump,” says Yoga teacher and health and wellness influencer Jenay Rose. “Small, short bursts of activity – at least two minutes for every hour – have a measurable impact on our well-being,” said Leah Nguyen, Wellness Coordinator for the Brown School of Social Work. For simple desk exercises and tips, see Web MD’s article on exercising at your desk.
5. Switch tasks.
If you’re having a hard time concentrating, switch tasks. Interact with coworkers and arrange your schedule so that demanding work gets taken care of when your energy levels are the highest, such as in the morning. If possible, save the most stimulating job or the work you care about for the afternoon. You can also humanize your workday by touching base with colleagues in-person as opposed to via phone or email. This will allow you to stretch your legs while providing social time.
6. Interact with people who boost your energy.
Whether visiting a colleague at their desk or making an “I was thinking of you” phone call to your spouse, children, siblings, etc., these social calls can lift your spirits and rejuvenate your energy for hours. It’s about touching base with people you care about, enjoy, and love.
7. Take a short power nap.
Recognizing the importance of being well-rested is critical to your well-being. According to the National Sleep Foundation, while naps don’t necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality nighttime sleep, a short rest of 20-30 minutes can help to improve mood. For short-term alertness, try taking a 20-30 minute nap, such as in your car or office, if it provides privacy. If you have more time, a study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%.
8. Take a break.
Tired? Bored? Take a five to fifteen-minute break from work and use that time to recharge and relax. Whether you spend your vacation listening to music, calling a friend, or doing a crossword puzzle, you can gain a lot from taking a few minutes to do what you want. Some experts recommend semi-frequent walking breaks, too. “Studies have shown that prolonged sitting increases the chance of developing heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues. Quick stretch breaks or walks around the office every 30 minutes can lower that risk,” says Jon Lugbill, Executive Director of Sports Backers, a non-profit active living organization.
9. Try aromatherapy.
Never underestimate the power of aromatherapy to help energize. According to Pop Sugar Fitness, orange, peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus, rosemary, and grapefruit help combat stress and depression and energize and uplift. Try keeping these scents within reach, such as by dotting peppermint oil onto your hand and rubbing it all over your face, neck, etc.
10. Work on preventing the slump.
If you’re tired, sluggish, or bleary-eyed day in and day out, the root of your nails could be your habits, physical fitness level, what you eat and drink, and how much sleep you get. Make sure you get the sleep you need and embrace healthy habits. “If someone has chronic fatigue that doesn’t resolve no matter what they do (get more sleep, take B vitamins, exercise, etc.), I will start to suspect food sensitivities,” says Ryan Whitcomb, Integrative and Functional Dietitian/Nutritionist at GUT RXN. See a specialist if your fatigue doesn’t go away.
No one likes feeling sluggish like clockwork every day at 2 PM. However, there are ways to combat the cyclical fatigue you experience day in and day out. Working any of these ten suggestions into your routine should help relieve symptoms of the mid-day slump, energize you, and help you feel alert and aware throughout the day.