Tips for charging up your energy levels
Are you feeling a bit rundown in the afternoon, especially between the hours of 2 and 5 PM? Then, you’ve got a bad case of the afternoon slump. That’s when your body and mind lose the lion’s share of your morning’s energy and it usually occurs about an hour or two after eating lunch.
Here are the symptoms:
- falling asleep or nodding off
- inability to concentrate
- excessive yawning
- problems with vision
There are several different reasons why your body runs out of steam in the afternoon. Mostly, it’s connected to what you eat and how you sleep.
Possible Causes and Solutions
Low Sugar Levels
The metabolic root cause has to do with low sugar levels in your bloodstream and stress, also known as adrenal fatigue. The adrenal glands produce cortisol, a hormone that helps us deal with stress. In a high stress situation, cortisol is rapidly depleted, and the result is you feel foggy and less energetic.
You might have noticed that you feel more tired at work on days when the stress level in the office is exceptionally high.
So, you might be able to beat the afternoon slump by having a light snack. Don’t go for something high in calories or saturated-fats. Bananas are a good source of B vitamins that will boost your mental alertness. Almonds are great sources of magnesium and Vitamin E. Popcorn is also a fun, low calorie food that will get your through the afternoon slump.
It can be difficult to eat the right foods when you might only have half an hour for your lunch break. It’s easy to pop into the local fast food joint and scarf down a 600-calorie burger without a second thought about how it will make you feel in an hour.
You could be suffering from something known as postprandial sleepiness, or as it’s commonly known – a food coma. That’s when you’ve eaten a lunch that is high in calories, proteins, and saturated-fat. Your brain produces an excess amount of serotonin and you feel like putting your head down on the desk.
You start daydreaming about your couch and trying to string sentences together for that monthly presentation is taking way too much effort. You simply can’t think straight. Well, in 2016, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute found that the amount of food we eat and the amount of proteins and salts contained in that food released chemicals in the brain that induced sleep. The food coma is real.
One way to beat the afternoon slump is to avoid high calorie foods at lunchtime. As difficult as that may be when you’re on a tight schedule, you can achieve wonders by packing your own lunch at home. Don’t settle for what’s around the office.
Plan your meal and you’ll power through the afternoon slump like a champ. Meat-eaters: go for quality protein choices like salmon and tuna over a bed of mixed greens.
Grilled chicken and veggies over a bed of brown rice will also get you through a long afternoon. Vegetarians: get your hands on some lentil soup or grilled veggies like asparagus or protein-rich cauliflower. Dieters: you’d be surprised how far an almond butter sandwich with honey and bananas will take you. (Maybe you want to eat two.)
Lack of Sleep
According to the Cleveland Clinic, adults between the ages of 26 and 64 should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. However, the work/life demands of most professionals relegate that statistic to the realm of wishful thinking.
We don’t often get enough sleep, but the effects of sleeplessness wreak havoc on our energy levels, especially in the afternoon. You feel less alert and scientists believe you even lose some of your short-term memory recall. Elon Musk made headlines in August when he told the New York Times that he works 120 hours a week and can only sleep with the help of prescription Ambien.
The news caused Tesla stock prices to plummet because a lack of sleep will always lead to a lack of productivity and focus.
The cure for lack of sleep is rather obvious. Take a nap. If your boss frowns upon you catching 40 winks in front of your computer screen, then point out that Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and John F. Kennedy were all afternoon nappers.
If you can take a nap, here’s a tip: keep it short. You only need a 20 to 30 minute nap to regain your mental alertness. Any more than that and you’re just going to disrupt your natural sleep cycle.
The afternoon slump is killing your productivity, but you’re not out of the fight. Just pay close attention to the root causes. Make sure your blood sugar level is okay, eat a healthy, low-fat lunch and don’t feel bad if you need to take a little 20 minute nap.
You can also do some light exercise to boost your heart rate and get your blood flowing again. You need to listen to your body and respond. Don’t just accept an afternoon slump as part of your work day. Always remember that you have the power to change your life for the better.