I’m writing this in the midst of an afternoon slump, and dear reader I confess: I’m not practicing what I’m about to preach. Or at least, not in its entirety. I’m fending off the urge to lay down my head with green tea (sanctioned) coupled with a gluten-free ginger cookie (rookie mistake).
I don’t believe I’m the only one battling the wave of afternoon exhaustion. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults’ strongest biological urges to sleep occur between 2 and 4 a.m. and between 1 and 3 p.m. First comes the initial slump, then the yawn, and then the coup de grace—eyes so heavy that it takes everything you have to pry them open.
Why does the afternoon slump happen?
Scientifically speaking, the afternoon slump is a period of decreased alertness, focus and productivity in the afternoon. Afternoon fatigue sets in because of a natural dip in your biological sleep-wake cycle. The slump can get amplified, however, by skimping on sleep, eating a heavy lunch, or having a particularly draining morning. Before you reach for the cookie, here are 12 sound ways to get the better of afternoon sleepiness.
Afternoon Slump Solutions
A 2017 study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior found that short periods of physical activities, such as 15 minutes of stair walking was more energizing than a cup of coffee. The study focused on chronically sleep deprived adults, who found themselves more invigorated by a brief spurt of activity versus the equivalent to a cup of coffee—a 50-milligram caffeine capsule. If you are feeling the approach of a wave of tiredness, stroll around the office, run up and down the stairs, or do a few stretches or pushups.
Catch a whiff
Certain scents can make us more alert or more relaxed. Peppermint is a known energy-enhancing scent. The scent stimulates the hippocampus area of the brain, the area that controls mental clarity and memory, particularly long-term memory. Peppermint’s menthol component triggers you to wake up and pay attention. Put a few drops of peppermint essential oil on your hands, rub them together, then rub them over your face (avoid your eyes).
Take a break and get outside, as the outdoors has an inherently revitalizing effect. A 2010 study found that spending just 20 minutes outdoors could elevate energy levels.
Chewing increases the amount of blood and oxygen flowing through your head, brain included. As a result, gum chewing makes people more alert and can speed up your thinking. A 2013 study reported in the journal Brain and Cognition found that reaction times are up to 10 per cent faster while chewing gum.
Embrace the nap—in moderation. Done right, a nap won’t decrease your productivity and can actually boost your energy. The sweet spot for a power nap is somewhere between 20-30 minutes. According to the sleep foundation, researchers found that five-minute naps are too short to produce a notable benefit. On the other hand, sleeping for 30 minutes or longer gives the body enough time to enter deep sleep. But napping for too long can leave you feeling drowsy for up to an hour.
For extra credit, supercharge your naps with caffeine. Although it sounds counterintuitive, if you drink coffee or tea about 20 minutes before a nap, you can time it so your energy will peak just as you wake up. If you’re caffeine-sensitive, avoid caffeine after whatever you have deemed your cut-off point.
A cup of green tea, packed with active compounds called phytochemicals, can give you sustained focus in the afternoon without the jitters or making it tough to fall asleep that night.
Medical research shows that dehydration can make you feel tired even when you’re rested. Men in a study on dehydration reported they felt fatigue, lethargy and tiredness. Being properly hydrated helps raise energy levels and help you feel your best.
If you feel lethargic during your workout music can help, so why not at the office? Several studies suggest that the benefits of music include enhanced attention, mental efficiency, speed, accuracy, memory and creativity. If you enjoy listening to music while you work, consider choosing a song without lyrics to cut down on getting carried away.
Treat snacks as mini-meals that contribute to your overall nutrition for the day. Healthy snacks can provide your body with time-released fuel. Opt for fruits and vegetables to boost your intake of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Mix that with some protein-dense choices such as a handful of nuts, homemade trail mix, a hard-boiled egg or Greek yogurt with seeds to keep your mojo at its max.
Studies have shown that even short bursts of activity can keep you alert. Instead of emailing or calling colleagues, stop by their desks to ask a question face to face. If you have a standing desk, push yourself to stand up when you feel the most tired.
When you laugh, your body increases its oxygen intake and releases endorphins. Among laughter’s many other benefits, it provides you with a quick, refreshing reboot. In one University of Nebraska study, participants who watched a funny video afterwards enjoyed an immediate energy boost.
If you are working remotely and the afternoon slump hits, you can snap out of if by literally snapping of (masturbating). Orgasms can flush your body with endorphins, reduce stress, increase blood flow, boost concentration and invigorate you. And sex can serve as a quick pick-me-up as well, releasing a host of endorphins that can bump up your energy considerably.