We've all been there. Your energy is abundant, productivity is flowing, you’re crossing tasks off your list … until you take your lunch break. Suddenly you’re groggy and time is c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g. Welcome to the afternoon slump.
Hitting a wall after lunch is common and often sends us reaching for a caffeine pick-me-up. However, before you fill up on coffee or soda, take a moment to consider what you’re putting in your body and why. Coffee is a means to an end sometimes, but there are healthier ways to cope with the afternoon energy slump.
In fact, there are even strategies you can implement to avoid it altogether! Imagine what you can do with no mid-afternoon grogginess. At Happsy, we’re in the business of organic rest and relaxation, so read on for our natural tips on how to feel more awake and keep the energy rolling all through your workday.
What is the afternoon slump?
The “afternoon slump,” or “after-lunch slump,” is a term that refers to that period right after lunch until around 2 or 3 p.m. when your energy levels tank and you feel super sluggish. You may even find yourself snapping awake at your desk.
There are a few different factors that can contribute to experiencing the afternoon slump, but symptoms generally remain the same and include:
- Excessive blinking and yawning
- Feeling lethargic
- Moodiness or irritability
- Slight vision changes
- Digestive discomfort
You may find you’re craving carbohydrates and sugar, too. Your body is asking you for help! The afternoon slump can make it nearly impossible to focus and finish out the day. Understanding why this happens is key to avoiding it in the future.
Here's why your energy dips in the afternoon
The afternoon slump has to do with your circadian rhythm, the internal clock that controls your level of alertness or tiredness throughout a 24-hour day. We are naturally inclined to feel more energized at certain parts of the day and more tired at others. Fluctuations in our circadian rhythm can be most prominently felt after midnight and in the afternoon – especially between the hours of 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.! So, what feels like an afternoon crash is really just your circadian rhythm giving natural cues for you to sleep. Too bad you have to follow the timeclock at your job and not your body’s clock, right?
More factors to consider in the after-lunch slump
Your circadian rhythm isn’t the only thing responsible for a shift in energy in the afternoon. Other factors that are not so natural or healthy could be to blame. The most obvious are:
- Not getting enough sleep in the first place
- What you’re eating for lunch
Food and sleep have a well-documented relationship. Certain foods, like highly processed foods or foods high in carbohydrates, tend to make you drowsy. Overeating can have the same effect. If you’re struggling with the afternoon slump on a daily basis, you may want to keep a food journal for a few weeks and take a closer look at what you’ve been having for lunch or snacks while working.
Other factors that may contribute to afternoon fatigue are high levels of stress, dehydration, a sedentary lifestyle or an underlying metabolic disorder, like pre-diabetes or insulin resistance.
10 Tips for how to avoid the afternoon slump
Fortunately, avoiding the afternoon slump is greatly within your own control. There are so many easy and effective ways to make beating the slump possible – none of which include drowning yourself in caffeine! Here are some of our favorites:
1. Take a walk
Breaking up your day with frequent walks is a great way to improve digestion after meals and keep blood flowing. Breathing in fresh air and going on a walk outside can help reenergize both the mind and body.
2. Sit in the sun
Natural sun exposure is vital to a healthy circadian rhythm. Sitting in the sun for just 10 minutes can recharge your body, reset your internal clock and boost your levels of vitamin D which is essential for health.
3. Eat more protein
Eating foods that are high in protein, fiber and healthy fats can make all the difference when it comes to getting through the day. Steering clear of foods that are high in carbohydrates or refined sugar can help you avoid feeling tired after meals or causing a spike in blood sugar, which can lead to a crash.
4. Drink more water
Staying hydrated is one of the best and simplest ways to boost energy and remain clear headed. Instead of reaching for soda, coffee or tea, sip on filtered water throughout your day. Add in some healthy electrolytes to further improve its benefits!
5. Chew gum
The simple and enjoyable act of chewing gum (especially in minty flavors) has been proven to increase alertness and stimulate the brain.
6. Play music
Upbeat, energetic or instrumental music can help get you back into the work groove and focus on whatever task at hand. The right song can boost your mood and invigorate your whole body.
7. Snack smarter
Many of us reach for sweets or salty snacks after lunch to keep us going. Having a healthy snack that’s high in fiber and protein and low in sugar and carbs is key. Skip the potato chips and reach for raw veggies, hummus, Greek yogurt, a slice of cheese, a piece of deli meat or a little bit of fruit.
8. Eat dark chocolate
If you feel yourself wanting to reach for an afternoon treat, dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and healthy fats and even contains a small amount of caffeine to give your brain and body a boost.
9. Breathe peppermint oil
This stimulating scent is shown to boost energy and can help with migraines, headaches or stomach aches if you happen to feel one coming on mid-afternoon. Just make sure you’re using essential oils sustainably.
10. Hack your productivity
Learn your own patterns and when you feel most productive. Tweak your schedule to align with your peak productivity times and try scheduling more collaborative work in the afternoon. Socialization has been shown to help boost energy.
As you can see, although common, the after-lunch slump is completely avoidable. Kick your caffeine habit to the curb and begin incorporating these tips for a better afternoon. It might just become your new favorite time of day!