Wellness & Education

Coping with the “Afternoon Slump”

Do you find yourself wanting to lay your head on your desk and catch a few “z’s” in the afternoons? This “afternoon slump” may be due to your circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is your body’s natural cycle of wakefulness and sleep. What Is Circadian Rhythm? | Sleep Foundation

There are two possible approaches to dealing with the afternoon slump. Your first option is to reserve the mornings for high energy, high concentration tasks and important meetings, leaving the afternoons for tasks that require less engagement.  Answering emails and carrying out less demanding routines may be better suited to periods of low energy.

Secondly, you can try to stimulate yourself to stay as alert as possible during those sleepy afternoons. Instead of replying to an email with another email, get up and walk across the office to talk to a co-worker in person. Both the physical activity and social interaction will help you stay alert.

Consuming sugar can help in the short time but the high it brings is promptly followed by an energy crash. Eating a high protein snack will help you stay alert longer. Caffeine can be very effective in maintaining alertness as long as it’s consumed in moderation. Too much caffeine can cause problems sleeping at night, which makes natural afternoon fatigue even worse.

Another option is to use light therapy to combat afternoon fatigue. You can either use high-intensity lights at your desk or you can spend some time in direct sunlight. Direct sunlight is best, especially when combined with exercise. A quick walk outside can perk you up and help you return to your desk ready to focus on finishing out the day.

Lastly, take care to avoid behaviors that would make your natural afternoon slump even worse. Don’t skip a healthy breakfast. Don’t stay up late, leaving yourself in a state of sleep deprivation.

The most important thing isn’t which strategy you choose to combat afternoon fatigue. It’s the fact that you’re prepared with a variety of strategies. No one technique is likely to work all the time. As long as you make a conscious decision to expect, manage and cope with the afternoon slump, your day will go a bit easier and you’ll use your time more effectively.