Do you ever find yourself completely knackered by midday?
You got up in a rush, grabbed a quick bite to eat for breakfast (or maybe you forgot), powered through hours of productive work and then filled up on a carby lunch.
But when you return to your desk after lunch, you’ve suddenly hit a wall, and all you want to do is sleep.
Welcome to the midday energy slump.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone – it’s actually super common to feel drowsy in the afternoon.
But why does this happen?
Well, our bodies have an internal biological clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle, pharmacist and clinician Michael Sam-Yorke tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Typically, the circadian rhythm causes a dip in energy levels and alertness in the mid-afternoon,’ he says.
‘This dip in energy levels is a natural part of the body’s daily cycle, and it can be more pronounced for people who have irregular sleep patterns or who work night shifts.’
However, external factors can also impact how tired you feel and how long your energy remains depleted.
While this dip in energy is not super helpful when you have a full afternoon left of work and an evening of chores, don’t panic.
We have some simple suggestions that might help boost your day.
Eat energising and nutritious foods
Michael explains that the timing and content of our meals can also impact our energy levels.
‘Eating a heavy or carbohydrate-rich meal can cause a surge in blood sugar levels followed by a crash, which can leave us feeling tired and lethargic,’ he says.
‘This effect can be more pronounced if you skip breakfast or have a light lunch, as it can cause a more significant drop in blood sugar levels in the mid-afternoon.’
To prevent this, Dr Caitlin Hall, a dietitian and head of clinical research at myota, suggests having a breakfast containing a source of prebiotic fibre such as barley, oats, fruits and nuts.
‘The prebiotic fibre is crucial: it slows down the movement of food through the digestive system, meaning that sugars are released gradually into the bloodstream, and big glucose spikes are avoided,’ she explains.
‘Prebiotic fibre also fuels the activity of the good bacteria in your gut (your microbiome), maximising the production of short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) molecules that help regulate your energy and hormone levels throughout the day.
A protein-rich breakfast will also help to avoid any drastic energy slumps. This could include things like eggs, salmon, nut butter and seeds.
Drink plenty of water
Dehydration can contribute to feelings of fatigue and sluggishness.
Micheal adds that if you don’t drink enough water throughout the day, it can decrease blood volume, which can cause the heart to work harder to pump blood and deliver oxygen to the brain and other organs.
A lack of water also leads to dehydration which can cause you to feel tired.
While it seems counterintuitive, avoid coffee. The boost of energy will be short-lived, and drinking coffee can lead to dehydration again, risking those feelings of fatigue.
Get outside and move your body
If you find your job tedious or you’re feeling burnt out, it’s quite likely that you will feel less energised.
‘We start to “switch off” when we’re bored, and as a result, the yawns start creeping in,’ Sarah adds.
‘And if we’re generally overworked most of the time or have been pushing ourselves too hard, we may start to feel burnt out, which can also leave us feeling exhausted and lacking in energy.’
So try to switch up your day, move around and get a change of scenery.
‘The best thing you can do if you start to feel your energy levels dip in the afternoon is to go for a walk,’ Helen O’Leary, physiotherapist and clinical director at Complete Pilate, says.
‘Not only are you moving, which gets your circulation going, but when you are walking, you adjust your gaze to take in objects in the distance and scan the whole of your visual field.
‘This refreshes the mind, especially if you have been sitting looking at a fixed spot on your computer screen.’
The fresh air will increase the oxygen flow to your brain, and if the sun is out, you will get some much-needed vitamin D.
However, if you can’t get out, gentle exercise is the next best thing.
Helen adds: ‘Pilates or yoga are great options for low-intensity exercise as they don’t need much space or equipment, so you can just roll out a mat and do some quick exercises.’
Have a nap
This one isn’t always possible, however, if you can grab a bit of shut-eye during your work-from-home lunch break or even once you are back home, then it could be a great way to combat your energy slump.
‘A power nap can help restore alertness and improve cognitive function, which can help you stay focused and productive, says Martin Seeley, Sleep Expert and CEO of mattressnextday.
‘Research suggests a nap can help with memory consolidation as well as helping to boost creativity and problem-solving abilities by giving the brain time to consolidate information and make new connections.
‘It also helps improve mood and reduce stress, contributing to better overall health and wellbeing.
‘And it reduces levels of fatigue.’
The ideal nap should last around 20-30 minutes. While a mid-afternoon nap (between 1 pm to 3 pm) is best, it’s ok if you have to wait till later – just make sure to find a dark, quiet space where you can shut your eyes in peace.
Put some nice music on, read some of your books or chill out with some TV.
Doing something that you enjoy is also a great way to take a break from a dull task you are doing and give yourself a boost.
These activities are very low energy, so they will also give your body some time to rest.
Look after your mental health
Another potential reason you may experience an energy slump is your mental health.
‘We know that there is a connection between how we think and our energy levels,’ Sarah explains.
‘Our thoughts and mental states can greatly impact our energy levels, both positively and negatively.
‘Negative thinking patterns, such as rumination, worry, and self-criticism, can drain our mental and emotional energy, leading to fatigue and low motivation.
‘These negative thoughts can also activate the stress response in our bodies, leading to physical symptoms of fatigue, tension, and exhaustion.’
High levels of stress can also deplete our energy levels.
Sarah explains that when we’re stressed, our body releases cortisol, which can interfere with our ability to sleep and leave us feeling fatigued.
‘So, if you’ve had a highly stressful morning – don’t be surprised if you crash in the afternoon,’ she warns.
In order to limit your work stresses, try to set clear goals, prioritise tasks and take breaks.
If you can, try speaking to someone close to you about the problems you’re going through – whether work-related or not.
But if you find your mental health is worsening, seek help from your GP for a referral to talking therapies.
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