What is the afternoon slump?
You know the feeling well – it’s after lunch, around 2:30 pm when it hits. You’re working peacefully on your latest project when, suddenly, you feel your eyelids begin to droop. You feel your mind going numb – wait, did I already type that? The world around you turns into one large blur and your head wobbles as your mind battles between staying awake and taking a nap, right there and then.
Why does this happen?
It’s not an easy answer – a few different factors are at play and contribute to that all-too-common afternoon fatigue.
Your body’s natural sleep cycle is a big factor. Since you wake up early for work, your body naturally wants to take a nap around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Think about it: you probably woke up around 6 or 7 AM. You get into work around 8 or 9 AM. You power through until 4 or 5 PM, go home, and stay up until 10 or 11 PM. That’s about 17 hours in total that you’re awake – that’s a long time for your body and mind to be up and at ‘em, while maintaining peak performance.
Your body also releases melatonin, our natural sleep chemical, between 2 and 4 in the afternoon, aligning with our natural sleep cycle. Your core body temperature dips in the afternoon, signaling to your brain to release melatonin. This leaves you feeling very drowsy very quickly.
Inactivity and sitting all day attracts fatigue and is bad for your overall health. When you stand up and walk around, your body releases lipoprotein liapse, which is an enzyme that attaches to fat in your bloodstream and transports it to your muscles to be used as fuel. When you sit all day, your body doesn’t release this enzyme, causing drowsiness by mid-afternoon.
The other main contributor to afternoon fatigue is what you’re eating throughout the day. You really are what you eat. Since most people supplement their diets with plenty of simple carbs and caffeinated substances to keep their energy level up, as opposed to burning fat to maintain a stable energy level, they experience peaks and drops in their energy level throughout the day. Fill your diet with foods that are high in good fats such as nuts, olive oil and avocados.
The Bottom Line: Give yourself a break, go for a walk each hour, eat filling foods and you’ll beat that 2:30 PM slump without any sugar or caffeine added.