Picture this: you’re working from home or at the office and have managed a productive morning, but it’s now mid-afternoon and you’re barely staying awake. Sound familiar? Well, take heart that it’s not just you: the 3pm slump is a real thing. It’s caused by our circadian rhythm, which comes with a natural drop in the cortisol hormone in the afternoon.
While science has a bit to explain, there are other factors such as diet and a lack of movement that also contribute to fatigue, making it hard to stay on task. Fortunately, there are things you can do to lessen the afternoon slump’s impact and boost your energy. Here we explore five things that you can harness to reduce the 3pm sleepies.
Staying hydrated will help you power through the afternoon as smoothly as possible. The more tired you are, the more tempting it is to reach for caffeine, but keep in mind that caffeinated drinks in the afternoon can disrupt your sleep, making it harder to push past 3pm later in the week. Sugary drinks are also a no-go, as they’ll cause a blood sugar drop that will leave you feeling worse.
Instead, reach for your water bottle or choose energy-boosting teas for a herbal high that won’t make you wired or affect your ability to sleep. Maintaining your water intake will help reduce headaches. If you’re guilty of not drinking enough, try a drink bottle with motivational sayings marked on the side to keep you going.
Check your diet
Resist the urge to munch on chocolate and sugary foods to get you through the afternoon, as these will have the opposite effect, causing your energy to crash further.
Instead, fuel your body from the moment you wake with protein-rich foods, healthy fats, and slow-burning carbs that will give you long-lasting energy throughout the day, as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid skipping meals as that will unbalance your energy levels causing them to spike.
A large or heavy lunch will guarantee an afternoon crash, so try smaller portions. If you have the afternoon munchies, opt for lower glycemic index foods that will digest more slowly, like nuts, seeds and homemade protein balls.
When you start to feel your energy drop, get up, move around and get your blood pumping. It can be as easy as walking around or getting in a few stretches.
If feasible, try to get outside for some fresh air and sunlight, even if it’s just a five-minute walk around the block. Escaping artificial light and screens with a fresh change of scenery will give you a dopamine boost that will help wake your body up.
If that’s not an option, try some gentle stretches or opt for a sit-to-stand desk. If you can’t avoid a nap, keep it to a short 15 to 45-minute siesta that will keep you going without affecting your sleep overnight.
If possible, work with your body’s natural rhythm by planning to complete your higher-demand tasks in the morning when you’re at your peak, leaving busy work for the afternoon when you’re more tired. This will help you complete work that requires more energy when you’re at your best. Adding variety to your day will also help you beat the slump.
When you start to find your focus slipping, reset your work space. Try cleaning up your work area, close unnecessary browser tabs, and write an action plan of achievable tasks for the afternoon. If you work from home, try moving to a different space – or even taking your laptop outside. Play upbeat music that will boost your mood and distract you from how tired you are.
Improve your sleep
Don’t just look at your afternoon slump in isolation; if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’ll inevitably struggle come 3pm. Give yourself the best possible chance of cruising through the afternoon by making sure you’re getting eight hours a night. If sleep doesn’t come easily, consider your sleep hygiene, making sure you switch off screens an hour or so before bedtime, keeping your bedroom just for sleep and trying to get to sleep at the same time each night, so your body knows it’s shut-eye time.
If stress is getting you down, try some meditation and mindfulness techniques before bed to help your brain power down. These can also be useful for decluttering your mind and helping you refocus in the afternoon.
While your body naturally dips in the afternoon, we can take plenty of actions to lessen the sluggishness and stop it from affecting our day. If you’re sick of the 3pm sleepies, develop an action plan using these tips and enjoy increased concentration and productivity as your reward.