Munif Ali

Always Feeling Tired in the Afternoon?
Beat The Afternoon Slump!

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Have you ever experienced that zombie moment after eating lunch? Or that feeling of being sleepy and wanting to take a nap at your office desk because suddenly you have no more energy for the rest of the day? If you often experience losing the momentum you have been building since the day’s start, you’re experiencing an afternoon slump.

This sudden drop of energy in the afternoon happens between 2:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. Aside from the loss of focus and tiredness, you may also experience mood swings, cravings, or irritation. It varies based on the time someone starts working shifts, but the concept is the same. 

You are not alone. Feeling tired in the afternoon or afternoon fatigue is a more common issue than you think it is. In this piece, we will discuss why you feel tired in the afternoon and how to overcome it.

1. Know Your Circadian Rhythm

get enough sleep to avoid feeling tired in the afternoon

First, get to know your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is our body’s internal system that controls sleepiness and wakefulness. A research from Yale Biology Medicine discussed how alertness tends to drop between 1 and 3 in the afternoon when our body temperature naturally starts to dip, just as it does at nighttime. Our typical circadian cycle dictates a period of sleepiness or decreased alertness in the afternoon. 

However, sleep disorders, medical disorders, stress, insufficient sleep, or poor eating habits can also induce sleepiness at this time. In essence, people are biologically wired for two sleep cycles–a long period during the night and a short period during the afternoon. You can control and maintain a healthy Circadian Rhythm by fixing your habits by:

  • Trying to sleep early and getting 6 to 8 hours of sleep
  • Eating small, frequent meals that are high in fiber and protein
  • Reducing sugar intake (e.g., soda, donuts, cakes, ice cream, etc.)
  • Going for a jog to get sun exposure
  • Exercise regularly in the morning
  • Limiting light before you sleep at night
  • Avoiding too much caffeine intake

2. Fix your sleep habits

Second, you have to check your sleeping habits. Not getting enough quality sleeping hours or having inconsistent sleep patterns contribute to afternoon slump. Tossing and turning, worrying, and other physical problems can contribute to a troubled sleep habit. Sleeping too little, or less than seven hours per night, is the most common cause of exhaustion. 

sleeping habits

Waking up feeling tired or edgy is also a symptom of not getting the required amount of sleep. It affects a person as seriously as alcohol by damaging mental judgment, shortening reaction time, increasing temper, and creating problems with physical performance. 

Feeling tired after waking up can also result from too much sleep. You may resort to a cup of coffee or sugary breakfast, but this only provides a temporary boost in the morning. It usually wears off in the afternoon leading to an afternoon slump. 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, people who sleep less than eight hours per night on average do not live as long as those who sleep a proper eight hours. Some ways to improve sleep include:

  • Reducing blue light exposure at night
  • Reading a book before bed
  • Having a cold but comfortable temperature
  • Minimizing screen time

3. Lack of Physical Activity

Being inactive or not getting much physical activity makes you more likely to have restless, poor-quality sleep. Snoring and short pauses in breathing may also contribute to the problem. Getting more physical activity can help to improve your sleep quality.

Research studies from the National Library of Public Medicine talked about the effect of changing lifestyles on mental health. Those who changed their lifestyles and included physical activities in their daily routine were reported to have less insomnia, depression, and anxiety than those who did not exercise. 

4. Do not overexert yourself

But as you know, anything in excess is not good either. Exercising too much or overexerting yourself in other ways can leave your body too exhausted to recover overnight. This makes you feel tired and unmotivated or makes it hard for you to sleep properly. Psychological stress can significantly impact how much and how well you sleep. Even worse, the lack of sleep can make you feel even more stressed and exhausted.

Stress also plays an influential factor in how well you sleep. Taking steps to reduce the stress in your life or better manage your stress may help reduce the impacts of fatigue and EDS or Excessive Daytime Sleepiness.

Beat the Afternoon Slump

In many cases — if it seems that somewhere between 1:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon your brain and body goes on vacation leaving you exhausted and rereading sentences ten times without understanding anything — it’s time to change your daily routine.

Eat high-protein foods and small meals without adding sugar. Drink green tea to keep your energy flowing and avoid those coffee jitters. Get outside and stretch your legs to give your eyes a break. Don’t forget to turn on some instrumental music to keep your mind engaged. Finally, maintain these habits to stay on your game during weekdays. Get adequate sleep at night and ease up on alcohol during happy hour promos. 

A few simple adjustments will definitely help you prevent the midday slump.

Article Sources
  1. Nowell PD, Buysse DJ. “Treatment of insomnia in patients with mood disorders”. Depress Anxiety. 2001;14(1):7-18. doi: 10.1002/da.1042. PMID: 11568978.
  2. Peri, C. (2013). “12 Tips to Avoid Daytime Sleepiness”. WebMD. 
  3. Shaw, G. (2007). “Afternoon Energy Boosters”. WebMD. 
  4. Sleepspace (n.d.). “The 24 Hour Cycle That Dictates Energy Levels”. Sleepspace. 
  5. Valdez P. Circadian Rhythms in Attention. Yale J Biol Med. 2019 Mar 25;92(1):81-92. PMID: 30923475; PMCID: PMC6430172.
  6. Youngstedt, SD. “Effects of exercise on sleep:. Clin Sports Med. 2005 Apr;24(2):355-65, xi. doi: 10.1016/j.csm.2004.12.003. PMID: 15892929.

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