HEALTH & WELLNESS

The afternoon slump: defeat it once and for all

Getting tired in the middle of the day is all too common. Below is a closer look at ways to prevent and deal with mid-afternoon fatigue.

9 mins to read
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Getting through an entire day without feeling exhausted is an uncommon phenomenon. The exact cause of a low energy level differs from person to person. For some, there may be a cellular explanation behind their fatigue, while others may have a cause that is more psychological in nature.

Something that is fairly common in those that feel tired or fatigued during the day is the afternoon slump. The afternoon slump describes the tendency for people to feel tired or exhausted in the afternoon. This mid-day slump often strikes in the middle of the workday, which can lower productivity and motivation, and lead to lower overall performance.

The afternoon slump is a natural effect of our circadian rhythms, but the truth is that you can take several actions to help minimize the intensity of an energy slump and stay more energized throughout the day.

Below is a closer look at some of the reasons people experience the afternoon slump as well as ways you can support more natural and sustainable energy levels to help get you through the entire day.

Causes of afternoon slump

Getting tired in the middle of the day is quite common and has a number of potential causes. To defeat the afternoon slump once and for all it is important to first understand some of the reasons behind it.

Below is a closer look at some common causes of the afternoon slump.

Postprandial somnolence

Postprandial somnolence may sound like a rare disease, but in reality, it is the scientific term that refers to feeling tired following a meal. More commonly referred to as a food coma, this may play a contributing role in feeling tired in the afternoon.

If you have ever had a post-holiday meal nap after Thanksgiving, you are already familiar with the wave of sleepiness that seems to hit following a big meal.

When it comes to the afternoon slump, many people tend to experience symptoms of tiredness following lunch. It makes sense. While fatigue following a meal can occur, it isn’t a sure science as there are a number of factors that impact your sleepiness after a meal including the composition of your meal, if you’ve eaten a lot of carbohydrates, the portion size, and your hunger level.

Blood sugar spikes may also play a role in perceived energy levels and fatigue according to one study out of Washington state. The study looked at the differences between diets with high and low glycemic loads. The study found that the high-glycemic group had a higher tendency toward fatigue, mood disturbances, and signs of depression.

Reach for healthy snacks, eat your veggies, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and opt for whole grains and whole foods whenever possible for a good-for-you pick-me-up.

Lack of quality sleep

Another potential cause of the afternoon slump is not getting enough sleep during the night. According to the CDC, an adult should try and get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Not getting an adequate amount of sleep on a consistent basis can contribute to sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation has a number of symptoms ranging from having a lack of concentration, feeling fatigued, and even changes in your mood and overall mental health. Sleep deprivation isn’t always felt first thing in the morning and some people may feel the effects of poor sleep later in the day leading to a mid-day slump. A quick nap or power nap can help you feel better.

Caffeine

When the afternoon slump hits, many people make a beeline for the coffee machine for a quick caffeine fix. Caffeine can be a great way to achieve a short-term boost in energy but in the long run, it could end up causing more harm than good.

Caffeine works by tricking the brain into thinking it is awake. A molecule in the brain known as adenosine accumulates in the brain and attaches to designated receptors throughout the day. Adenosine binding to its receptors in the brain helps to get you to sleep by causing you to feel sleepy.

Caffeine interrupts this by binding to the adenosine receptors and blocking the effects of adenosine. As a result, caffeine causes you to feel more alert and wakeful. The problem with caffeine is when your body becomes reliant on it to function. With continual use of caffeine, the body adapts by creating more adenosine receptors which can require you to consume caffeine regularly to maintain a more normal level of wakefulness, alertness, and mental sharpness. It can then interfere with your sleep-wake cycles.

If an afternoon cup of coffee becomes a habit, your body will start anticipating caffeine, and as a result, may end up contributing to you getting tired. Skip the caffeine and chew gum or get a little physical activity in with a quick walk (and a little vitamin D) for improved alertness.

How to prevent the afternoon slump

Afternoon fatigue can become a large barrier to your ability to make the absolute most out of your day. Having the afternoon slump hit could mean the difference between getting your work done on time or needing to stay late to complete a project.

One of the best means of defeating the afternoon slump is to to take steps to facilitate more sustainable energy levels. Below is a closer look at some preventative measures you can take to help minimize the dreaded mid-afternoon lull.

Support cellular energy

Energy levels are often times thought of as something that is psychological in nature. Fatigue is often described as a feeling. While there is certainly a psychological aspect to your energy levels, there is also a biological one.

Your body gets its energy from the food you eat, whether that be protein, healthy fats, or carbs. The digestive system breaks these down into their component molecules which are then transported throughout your body to all of your cells via the bloodstream.

Glucose is the main energy molecule for cells within your body and a cellular component known as the mitochondria is responsible for metabolizing glucose and providing the cell with usable energy in the form of ATP. The mitochondria are the site of cellular respiration and are very much at the center of how your cells stay energized.

The mitochondria power nearly every cell within your body and their optimal functioning ensure that the cells within your body are able to work as efficiently as possible. Certain conditions like elevated cellular stress or other factors can negatively impact the efficiency of the mitochondria which can cause your body at a cellular level to not run as efficiently.

MitoQ is a supplement tailor-made to help provide mitochondrial support against oxidative damage which can help your mitochondria maintain their function.

Quality rest

One of the best things you can do to minimize the afternoon slump is to ensure you are getting good quality sleep the night before. Getting quality sleep tends to be more involved than simply calculating when you should go to bed. This is where having good sleep hygiene and avoiding the blue light of your smartphone an hour before bedtime comes in.

Having good sleep hygiene essentially means that you have a number of healthy habits that can help to facilitate better quality sleep for you to feel more rejuvenated the next day. Some of these habits include avoiding bright lights and screens before bed, setting a consistent sleep schedule, and creating wake-up and nighttime routines.

How to deal with the afternoon slump

Taking care of your health overall tends to be the most effective way of dealing with the afternoon slump, but sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may still feel fatigued in the middle of the day.

Below is a closer look at the things you can do to deal with the afternoon slump when it strikes.

Get your heart working

One great method to help you power through the afternoon slump is to get your heart pumping with some exercise in the middle of the day. Exercise and perceived energy levels are closely related and getting exercise in the middle of the day can help you to feel more alert.

You don’t need to go and set any personal records either. Go take a short walk or do a few jumping jacks. Simply getting your body moving can help to wake you up and provide you with a nice boost in energy and morale.

Plan for it

One of the best productivity hacks for limiting the impact of the afternoon slump is to plan out your day with it in mind. Perhaps you have three demanding tasks and two less demanding tasks in a day. Electing to choose the more demanding tasks in the morning when you are fresh can make it easier on yourself when you are feeling a little more fatigued in the evening.

While this tends to work for most, not everyone is more productive at the beginning of the day. Ultimately you should try and look at when you are most productive and try and plan your tasks accordingly. Don’t forget to take a break and give your brain much-needed rest from your work sometimes too.

Conclusion

The afternoon slump is a part of many people's day but it can be minimized with adequate prevention and coping strategies.

Prioritizing your cellular health with MitoQ, getting quality sleep, and choosing healthy options can help to prevent mid-afternoon fatigue. Fit in an afternoon workout and plan around your down times are also effective ways of coping with low energy when it strikes.

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