Reasons for the Afternoon Slump

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The afternoon slump — or the period after lunch when you feel tired, groggy, and irritable — is a common experience. You might repeatedly yawn, feel ready for a nap, or have difficulty concentrating on your work, even though there are still a few hours before the workday ends. You might even reach for caffeine to help get you through the rest of the day.

In order to remain productive and feel better, it’s important to know why that afternoon slump happens, how to combat it, and other ways to prevent fatigue in general.

Why Do I Get Tired in the Afternoon?

Many factors can contribute to feeling the afternoon slump. Examining your sleep, diet, exercise, and other lifestyle elements can help you determine what's causing you to feel the effects of an afternoon slump. Once you know what's behind your afternoon tiredness, you can figure out how to prevent it.

Reasons you may experience an afternoon slump include:

  • Circadian Rhythm Disruption: Circadian rhythm (1) is your body’s way of regulating when you feel alert and when you feel tired. Light exposure and sleep patterns majorly impact your circadian rhythm. Shift work, waking up early for work, and using electronics can disrupt this cycle.
  • Lack of Daily Movement: If you’re not exercising regularly, you're more likely to experience lower energy levels (2) throughout the day.
  • Unbalanced Meals: Eating foods that are packed with sugar and carbohydrates can lead to a spike in your blood sugar, causing fatigue and lethargy (3).
  • Sleep Debt: Consistently not sleeping enough can lead to significant sleep debt (4). Experiencing sleep debt affects your ability to stay awake and alert during the day.
  • Stress: Being stressed at work can affect your body’s ability to stay alert and refreshed. Stress can also negatively impact the amount you sleep (5) at night.
  • Physical Health Issues: If you have certain medical conditions, like an autoimmune disorder (6), you may feel more tired during the day.

How Can You Get Over the Afternoon Slump?

While there are several potential causes for the afternoon slump, the following actions may help prevent you from becoming tired and groggy in the afternoon.

  • Go Outside: Exposure to bright light (7), such as sunlight and certain artificial lights, can increase wakefulness. Take a few minutes to step outside into the sunlight or invest in a light therapy lamp.
  • Take a Nap: If you’re able to, take a nap for 15 to 45 minutes before or after eating lunch. This short rest period can reduce sleepiness and make you more alert and responsive.
  • Chew Gum: The simple act of chewing a piece of gum (8) can increase alertness, improve work performance, and broaden attention.
  • Move Around: Not only does physical activity benefit our bodies, moving around during the afternoon slump can also help the mind. Even if it’s just a walk around the office, movement can help you feel less sleepy.

How Can You Prevent Fatigue in the Afternoon?

In addition to in-the-moment actions that help you avoid an afternoon slump, consider more substantial lifestyle changes that could have far-reaching impacts.

  • Eat Healthfully: Reconsider the carb-heavy or sugary lunches that might make you sleepy. Instead, opt for meals containing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber, with little to no saturated fat.
  • Get Adequate Sleep: One of the best ways to feel awake and alert throughout the day is to get rid of your sleep debt (9). Having a regular sleep schedule, going to bed earlier, and getting adequate sleep can have many long-term health benefits, in addition to eliminating the afternoon slump.
  • Reduce Stress: Stress negatively impacts both sleep quality and daily mood. Find ways to destress, so your sleep quality and mood can improve. If you get better sleep at night, you’ll also be less tired during the day and less likely to experience an afternoon slump.
  • Consult Your Doctor: If you find that daily fatigue is severely impacting your ability to concentrate, function, or remain productive, talk to your doctor to rule out any potential underlying causes.

These steps can help you feel more alert in the afternoon and improve your overall sleep quality.

References

+ 9 Sources
  1. 1. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11796701/
  2. 2. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29755380/
  3. 3. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27633109/
  4. 4. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27775095/
  5. 5. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26307483/
  6. 6. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31447842/
  7. 7. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26016658/
  8. 8. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22583804/
  9. 9. Accessed on March 16, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26257477/

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