By afternoon, many can relate to hitting a midday slump where energy levels slowly drop as the day progresses. Tiredness sets in and many rely on a pick-me-up to make it through. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Experiencing low energy in the afternoon is fairly common and there are many reasons why you may feel groggy post-lunch.
Listen as Dr. Dean discusses what causes the midday slump and how to combat the mid-afternoon blues by understanding what your body needs to bounce back based on how we make energy.
Symptoms of an Afternoon Slump
We've all experienced that mid-afternoon slump when our energy levels seem to plummet, and our productivity takes a nosedive. While many of us might attribute this slump to a heavy lunch or a lack of sleep, the afternoon slump is a complex phenomenon with a range of contributing factors. While the afternoon slump is a common occurrence, understanding its symptoms can empower you to navigate through it more effectively. Besides the obvious signs of fatigue and extreme tiredness, there are many other symptoms associated with the afternoon slump:
- Unhealthy cravings
- Inability to focus
- Mood swings
- Poor digestion
- Blurry vision
Why Do I Feel Tired Mid-Afternoon?
It’s easier to overcome the energy slump when you understand what causes it. First things first, an energy drop in the afternoon is a normal response to your body’s natural circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm defines the physical, mental, and behavioral changes in the body during a 24-hour period. It’s responsible for you feeling alert in the morning and tired closest to bedtime - it’s also what contributes to decreased alertness in the afternoon, especially between 1-4pm.
However, your circadian rhythm isn’t the only thing responsible for the drop in energy. Many factors can cause or worsen an afternoon slump, including:
Processed foods rich in carbs and refined sugars require a lot of energy to be metabolized by the body. This can cause energy levels to spike and rapidly decrease, making you feel tired and sluggish shortly after you finish your meal.
Dehydration can occur when the body loses fluid and electrolytes at a much faster rate than it can replace them. Fatigue, poor concentration, headaches, and muscle weakness can occur as your body struggles from a lack of essential nutrients.
Lack of sleep
It comes as no surprise that lack of sleep contributes to afternoon fatigue. If your body doesn’t get 7-9 hours regularly, this will only worsen symptoms. The difference between the amount of sleep you should be getting and the amount you actually get is called a sleep debt. As this deficit continues, mental and physical fatigue quickly set in.
Excessive stress can set off a vicious cycle in the body. In response to stress, the adrenals work overtime to release greater amounts of the hormone cortisol, leaving you feeling depleted. When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more prone to stress, which only adds to the cycle.
5 Ways to Restore Energy & Focus
1) Take a Post-Lunch Break
One of the quickest ways to increase your energy is to squeeze in a quick workout. Instead of relying on caffeine throughout the day, taking a walk after lunchtime can be a great way to increase blood flow, reduce stress, and shift your brain into a calmer state. Studies show that light exercise has been linked to reduced fatigue, stress reduction, and improved focus. Try walking outside for 20-30 minutes to give the mind and body an extra boost to carry you through the day.
Just like any other cardiovascular exercise, walking can help boost feel-good endorphins in the body, in turn, reducing stress hormones. Overtime, regular exercise, through the production of endorphins, may help improve overall mood. For added stress-relieving benefits, make your daily walk a group activity for another way to spend time with friends and co-workers.
On the days where it may be tough to head outside, here are some light exercises you can perform anywhere, even at the office:
- Light exercises like jumping jacks or push-ups
- Stretch, either at your desk or outside
- Walk up and down the stairs in your building
Symptoms of a magnesium deficiency often include fatigue and exhaustion. This mineral plays a key role in the transmission of nerve impulses and the body’s metabolism. Magnesium is not only involved in thousands of the body’s essential functions, it also helps to activate ATP, the main source of energy for cells. Increasing your magnesium intake with diet and a high-quality liquid formula, may help to alleviate unwanted symptoms related to midday tiredness.
3) Proper Hydration
One of the best ways to boost your energy and awaken the cells is to drink plenty of water. Dehydration can result in poor concentration and fatigue, so make sure you’re getting plenty to drink during the day. But not coffee and high-sugar sodas and juices, — you need plenty of mineralized water to stay hydrated. A general rule of thumb and baseline is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water, each day.
4) Vitamin D
Low energy or fatigue is a common symptom of vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is required for mitochondria - the part of the cell that generates energy, to use oxygen to power key functions in the body. A deficiency can impair mitochondrial function and reduce the amount of energy produced in the muscles. When shopping for a supplement, choose a plant-based formula with the right balance of both vitamin D and K. Going for a 15-20 minute walk during the day is also a great way to naturally boost vitamin D levels.
5) More Sleep
Yes, this one’s easier said than done. But small changes overtime can compound into a noticeable difference in your daily life. Try to implement and follow a consistent bedtime schedule, making sure to go to bed at the same time each night, with a goal of waking up at the same time every morning. Prepare for better sleep by giving yourself enough time to finish daily tasks, practicing breathing/relaxation techniques, and turning off electronic devices 1 hour before bedtime.
What To Consider Next
We’ve all been there before. Whether you’re trying to push through a busy workday, or caring for young children at home, midday fatigue can make you feel exhausted and unproductive. Remember, it’s completely normal to feel tiredness set in at midday, but if you find everyday is a drag that relies on extra caffeine to power through, it’s a great time to take into account energy-saving strategies and make positive changes.