The Afternoon Slump
Most people have felt the dreaded phenomenon that occurs in the afternoon after lunch where you feel so tired you can barely keep your eyes open, and your efficiency at work drops to non existent levels. You probably have thought to yourself time and time again about how to beat the afternoon slump, and if it could be beaten. Good news, today you are going to find out what to and what not to do to get yourself through the afternoon without a nap.
What Not to Do
First let’s talk about things that can actually make your afternoon energy slump worse:
- Sugary snacks– a sugary snack is one of the first things we reach for when we are tired, we know that hit of sugar will pick us back up within minutes. The problem is within an hour of eating that candy bar, piece of cake, or sweet treat you are going to feel more exhausted then you did before you ate it. This is due to your blood sugar. When you eat sugary snacks, your blood sugar goes on a roller coaster, you feel this magnificent high when you first have it, and before you know it you feel an enormous drop. You can see this in the graph below, the high GI foods stands for a high glycemic index food, such as sugary foods. Low GI foods means a food that is low on the glycemic index, such as chicken or vegetables. You want your blood sugar to stay consistent throughout the day, or as close to as possible, as shown by the blue line.
- Caffeine– pumping yourself full of caffeine, every time you are tired, in the form of an energy drink, coffee, or tea with a high caffeine content can be doing more harm than good to your energy levels. Caffeine puts stress on your adrenal glands, essentially putting your body into a fight or flight mode every time you drink it. Having a cup in the morning hasn’t been found to be harmful, but using caffeine to perk you up throughout the day can be harmful. Similar to a sugar crash, you can also experience a caffeine crash.
What You Should Do
You wan’t to focus primarily on increasing and maintaining your energy throughout the day without the use of stimulants. When you do not use stimulants, such as sugery snacks or caffeine you won’t feel the after effects or “crash” an hour or so later when the effects of the sugar or caffeine ware off. All of our recommendations will provide natural energy boosters, without any stimulants.
One of the most important things to do when trying to figure out why you can barely keep your eyes open in the afternoon is to first analyze how you started your day off. Breakfast really is the most important meal, but often times in most households the mornings can be the craziest, whether you overslept, trying to get last minute work done, or shuffling kids out the door, breakfast is seen as an optional treat to most people now. Various polls conducted have found that between one third and half of Americans do not have breakfast in the morning. Having breakfast will give you more energy, and will keep your energy levels up throughout the day.
For those people who are regular breakfast eaters, more times than not they are making poor decisions for their breakfast foods. Most people do not have enough protein in the morning, which will keep you fuller longer, and will reduce the need to snack on sugary foods or guzzle down coffee. Instead of having only carbohydrates for breakfast, such as a bowl of cereal, try incorporating protein into your breakfast, such as one of the foods from the table below:
Carbohydrates at Lunch
It is no coincidence that the afternoon slump occurs only a short while after eating lunch. That is because most people tend to have lunches that include starchy carbohydrates, and are not having enough protein and vegetables. When you have too many starchy carbohydrates you ending up having a lunch with a heavy glycemic load, meaning it will wreck havoc on your blood sugar. Instead of a heavy carbohydrate meal for lunch, check out the table below for things to stay away from and things to have during lunch. Your blood sugar will thank you when you are not feeling the crash 1-2 hours after lunch and are reaching for the cookies.
Don’t Let Yourself Get Too Hot
Some offices can get really hot, and there is not much you can do about that. Although we suggest a mini fan for your desk, or to dress in layers. Being overly warm will make you drowsy, so if acceptable dress in appropriate layers so if you need to take off your blazer or cardigan you can cool down while still looking professional. The reason heat can cause drowsiness is due to the body’s mechanism of cooling your body down. When you brain signals that you are too hot it sends a message to blood vessels to vasodilate, meaning your blood vessels widen. This widening of the blood vessels helps more blood reach the surface of the skin to cool off, which is why your cheeks become pink when you are hot, and when there is more blood going to the surface of the skin your blood pressure decreases and the amount of oxygen being sent to brain decreases as well, causing drowsiness.
Exercise at Your Desk
Another way to stave of the afternoon slump is by doing some exercises at your desk. By moving your body you will improve circulation and will help more blood and oxygen reach your brain, which will also increase your energy and focus.
A great alternative to a sweet treat or a cup of coffee is peppermint. A great study by the University of Cincinnati found that peppermint is extremely beneficial for helping people to focus at the task at hand. We recommend either sucking on a small peppermint mint, having some peppermint tea or using a peppermint oil and putting a little under the nose.
Most people don’t drink enough water, and being dehydrated can make you tired and give you a headache. Keep a BPA/ BPA alternatives free water bottle at your desk and sip on it all day, you will be less tired and feel more alert when you are properly hydrated.
ABC News. (2005). POLL: What Americans Eat for Breakfast. [online] Available at: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/PollVault/story?id=762685 [Accessed 7 Mar. 2016].
Fox, M., Krueger, E., Putterman, L. and Schroeder, R. (2012). The Effect of Peppermint on Memory Performance. 1st ed. [ebook] Available at: http://jass.neuro.wisc.edu/2012/01/Lab%20603%20Group%205%20The%20Effect%20of%20Peppermint%20on%20Memory%20Performance.pdf [Accessed 10 Mar. 2016].
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/89228431@N06/11285432175″>sleeping worker</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a> *this photo was edited*
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/98192834@N07/23860442906″>Peppermint Bokeh</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>