Have you ever noticed that your energy starts to flag at around 2pm? Many of you will be familiar with that feeling you get in the afternoon…you know the one. When you’re sat at your desk and can feel your eyes closing. Even the bathroom or the kettle seem too far away to walk to.

Commonly referred to as the 2pm or afternoon slump, this attack of lethargy can be both annoying and affect your productivity. Read on to find out what causes it and what you can do to beat the sleepiness.

What Causes a Slump in Energy in the Afternoon?

We would all love to feel bright and alert in the afternoons, but the reality is that most of us have a dramatic drop in energy. Here are some of the reasons you experience an afternoon slump.

You might associate the word with images of being stuck in a dessert or someone who hasn’t drank for days but dehydration can occur with a loss as little as 1.5% of your water weight. This leads to mild dehydration and even mild dehydration can have noticeable effects such as tiredness and a change in mood.

image shows white bread which is a simple carb and can lead to an afternoon slump

What we eat directly influences the way we feel and our energy levels. Eating a carb heavy lunch, such as white bread, rice, pasta or chips can have a huge effect on how we feel in the afternoon. This is because simple carbohydrates, like the ones mentioned, cause a spike in blood sugar levels that is followed by a big drop. This can leave you feeling very lethargic and moody.

Add to the carb slump the fact that we experience a natural dip in core body temperature, and it’s almost like our bodies don’t want us to get anything done! The drop in body temperature that humans experience between 2:00pm and 4:00pm is a natural part of our circadian rhythm but the change triggers a release of melatonin, which in turn, makes you feel sleepy.

Our bodies are clever things and try to match up what is happening on the outside with what we feel on the inside. For example, our bodies associate long periods of stillness with sleep so if you aren’t moving enough, your body thinks you are going to sleep. Not enough movement is common in people with desk jobs – you’re literally tricking your body into wanting to go to sleep.

5 Ways to Beat the Afternoon Slump

It can be tempting to reach for a can of energy drink when the afternoon slump hits, or a big cup of coffee. However, this is a bad idea as you may gain a temporary rush from the caffeine but drinking caffeine after 12pm can dramatically affect your ability to sleep. Here are some healthier ways to beat the afternoon doldrums!

  1. Eat well at lunchtime. Switch out your white bread, pasta or chips for more complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain pastas and bread. These types of food will release energy slowly to power you through the afternoon, rather than giving you a quick boost. EatingWell have some great suggestions for cheap healthy work lunches.
  2. Drink up! Don’t let dehydration get you down by keeping yourself well hydrated throughout the day. Keep a bottle of water and a glass on your desk and keep taking sips all day. NHS Choices recommend drinking 1.2 litres of water per day.
  3. Move more. Try not to stay sat at your desk for the duration of the day. Get up and walk up and down the stairs while you are on the phone, take a walk around the office or go for a longer walk on your lunch break. Sitting still in a chair all day makes your body think its nap time so try to keep as active as you can.
  4. Step outside. When you can feel the afternoon slump coming on, step outside for ten minutes – no matter what the weather. Take a brisk walk or just sit in the sun for ten minutes to bring your core body temperature back up. The sudden drop in temperature that we experience in the afternoon can be responsible for feelings of tiredness.
  5. Re-plan your day. Finally, our last tip is to try and structure your day so that you have fewer taxing jobs to do in the afternoon. Even if you follow all our tips, you are naturally less alert in the afternoon so why not get the tasks that require concentration done first thing in the morning and save the afternoon for making calls or other less complex chores.

Get in Touch

We hope you found the information in the post interesting and that the tips can help you beat the afternoon blues!

If you would like to find out about how Wellspace can support you with healthier lifestyle choices and how to stay fit in the workplace, use our contact page to get in touch!