If you find your attention waning between the hours of 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., you aren’t alone. Most of us experience diminished energy, fatigue and poor concentration—a classic afternoon slump—at least occasionally. That’s because the body’s circadian rhythms, which impact our sleep patterns, don’t just peak at night. These sleep signals also hit us at around 2 p.m., thus your craving for a midday cat nap.
Additional factors, such as poor diet, improper hydration and too much continuous screen time, can also make you want to curl up inside your cubicle.
But don’t reach for your blanket just yet. Following are some easy and effective ways to ward off your afternoon slump.
How to Boost Energy Naturally
Get sufficient sleep.
This may seem obvious, but getting a good night’s rest can help you stay energized all day long. For optimal daytime functioning, aim for seven to nine hours of shut eye per night.
Eat a healthy breakfast.
If you eat a poor breakfast—or skip the meal altogether—you may be more likely to overindulge at lunch, which can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish come midafternoon. So, start each day off right with a nutritious meal, such as steel cut oats with fresh berries, yogurt topped with granola or an omelet with fresh spinach and mushrooms.
Downsize your lunch.
As we just mentioned, a large lunch can lead to afternoon fatigue. So, eat enough to satisfy your hunger but try not to overdo it. Choosing a protein-packed meal, like a grilled chicken salad, over one with a lot of carbohydrates, such as a cheese calzone, can help you further stave off an afternoon slump.
Limit your sugar.
A little sugar goes a long way. Candy, cookies, cakes and other sweet temptations may provide a temporary sugar high, but eventually you will experience a sugar crash, which may make you feel even sleepier.
Cut back on caffeine.
You may be tempted to curb your afternoon slump with a double dose of caffeine. But doing so could impact your ability to fall asleep at night. If you feel you must have caffeine, indulge in a small square of chocolate, which can give you a boost without impacting your sleep cycle, or a cup of green tea, which contains less caffeine than coffee and many nutritional benefits.
Boost your vitamin B.
This essential vitamin may help regulate your body’s circadian rhythms and prevent sleepiness during the day. You can find it in leafy green vegetables, including spinach, turnip greens and mustard greens as well as broccoli, beets, fish and tofu. Or you can take a vitamin B supplement.
Dehydration can zap your body of energy and impair your mental focus, leading to—you guessed it—an afternoon slump. So, stave off sleepiness by consuming at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water throughout the day. Try to keep a water bottle on hand so you won’t forget to hydrate, and flavor the water with lemon, berries or mint if you simply aren’t a fan of plain old H2O.
Try a standing desk.
It’s easy to become sleepy if you’re slumped over your desk for hours on end. So, the next time you find your eyes starting to close, try standing while you work. A standing desk can even provide additional health benefits!
Blow some bubbles.
Did you know that the act of chewing gum may help combat sleepiness? If you’re worried about cavities, choose a sugar-free variety.
Take a hike.
If you find yourself falling asleep in the afternoon, step away from your computer screen (eyestrain can make your eyes feel tired) and take a short, energizing walk. Your increased blood flow and heart rate—not to mention the fresh air—will have you feeling instantly alert.
Hit the gym.
In addition to boosting productivity, a midday workout can help combat sleepiness. If you don’t have time to go to the gym, try some simple stretching exercises at your desk.
Change your scenery.
If you find yourself fighting afternoon lethargy, a change of locale may increase your energy. Try working in a different location, such as a nearby conference room or coffee shop. Look for a space near a window as natural light may help keep you more alert.
Enjoy a healthy snack.
A small, protein-rich snack can help stop a slump in its tracks. So, skip the candy and chips, which can cause your blood sugar to spike and then dip, resulting in sleepiness. Instead, enjoy a healthy snack such as some whole wheat crackers with cheese, carrot and celery sticks with hummus, a piece of fruit with a hard boiled egg or or a handful of nuts or trail mix.
Close your eyes.
When all else fails, give into a short power nap. Set an alarm for 10 to 20 minutes and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to get back to work.