Biologically speaking, the afternoon crash is hardwired into our systems. The body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, regulates sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day and night. Unfortunately for our productivity, this rhythm has a penchant for afternoon naps.
While everyone’s internal clock differs to some degree, most people are sleepiest between 2 to 4 a.m. and between 1 to 3 p.m — hence, the afternoon crash. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept it. With the right tools, we CAN fight the midday slump.
Certain foods and habits can increase the effects of an afternoon slump, making it nearly impossible to stay awake and concentrate. But certain things can also decrease the drop in energy. Before we can learn how to fight off midday fatigue, we must first figure out what we’re doing to contribute to the crash. If we can zero in on and change those habits, it becomes much easier to stay awake. There are also ways to fight it once it sets in. Let's take a look.
Why Afternoon Crashes Happen
The internal clock isn’t the only thing working against us in the afternoon. Our choices, such as the time we go to bed, what we have for breakfast or what we eat for lunch, may also be sabotaging our afternoon productivity.
Not eating breakfast and filling up on coffee, for example, may power us through the morning with high energy, but it won’t fuel us throughout the day — and coffee can have a brutal crash. We really should eat a healthy breakfast to fuel ourselves through the morning and into the afternoon. Our bodies need carbohydrates to fuel us early in the morning, and combining carbs with protein helps improve concentration. Eggs and toast with a fruit or veggie can be an ideal option.
What we eat for lunch also matters. Skimping on protein at lunch can also slow us down. Simple carbs, like white bread or rice, can cause a blood sugar spike which will later be followed by a drop. These drops leave us feeling both tired and cranky. Opt for a well-balanced meal with protein and whole grains at lunchtime.
But it's not all about food. The amount and quality of sleep we get at night plays a role as well. So we need to be well-rested and adequately fed to stave off the afternoon slump. But what can we do once it hits?
Battling Afternoon Fatigue
Fortunately, we can snap ourselves out of the funk if we fall prey. There are numerous things you can do to get energized, such as:
- Take a cat nap
- Step outside or go for a walk
- Stretch or exercise
- Listen to music
- Organize your space
- Collaborate with teammates
- Eat a bite of dark chocolate
All of these tactics won’t work for everyone. For this reason, we should try a few strategies so we can measure which ones work best for each of us individually. Once we find the thing that snaps us out of the lazies, we won’t have to dread the afternoon slump again.
Lifestyle Shifts to Prevent Crashes
In addition to fighting fatigue when it occurs, we can make certain lifestyle changes that will provide us with more energy all day long. The National Sleep Foundation says that improving your sleep satisfaction can have a profound effect on energy levels. While eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that maintains blood sugar levels helps, so does getting regular exercise. Those of us lucky enough to have control over our schedules may even want to think about scheduling the day to match our circadian rhythms.
The afternoon slump is not inevitable. We can beat it!
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