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Afternoon Slump? 9 Ways to Restore Your Energy 🧠
Navigating the Afternoon Energy Slump: A Comprehensive Guide (8min Read)
Reasons for the slump:
It's tied to our Circadian Rhythm.
Skimping on sleep (below 7-9 hours) escalates the issue.
Dietary choices like white bread can lead to energy crashes.
Past traumas can elevate stress and intensify fatigue.
Ways to fight back:
Prioritize 7-9 hours of sleep.
Opt for healthier alternatives like Nu:tropic Bars over sodas.
Hydration is key, given the brain's dependency on water.
Strategically arrange tasks based on energy levels.
Incorporate brisk walks, seek sunlight, and consider short naps.
Techniques like deep breathing, especially the Wim Hof method, can help refocus.
Most of us have experienced it — the dreaded afternoon slump. Just when the day seems to be progressing, our energy levels take a nosedive in the middle of the afternoon.
I'm talking about that post-lunch dip that often leads to reaching out for a cup of coffee or an energy drink, hoping to combat the afternoon fatigue.
But what exactly causes this midday fatigue? And what are the best ways to counteract it? Are there healthy ways to beat it?
Let’s delve into this common phenomenon, and as usual, weave in science, our human brain, and some practical solutions.
The Underlying Factors of Daytime Fatigue
There are a few primary causes of this midday slump, but none of them are things that we can't overcome!
Natural Circadian Rhythm:
Our body operates on an internal clock, which is responsible for our body’s sleep-wake cycle.
The general flow of our energy & alertness levels are something like this, highest in the morning, a drop in the afternoon, an alterness rebound in the late afternoon/early evening, and then very low as we transition into sleep.
This cycle comes from our Nervous System and Endocrine System releasing melatonin and cortisol, these shifts in our hormone levels are what make us feel alter or tired!
Our circadian rhythms are driven by sunlight and body temperature, among other things.
This is why, in the early afternoon, when there's a natural dip in body temperature, we feel fatigued!
This is a principal reason behind the afternoon energy slump.
This one is kind of a DUH, but not getting enough sleep can exacerbate afternoon slumps.
The National Sleep Foundation suggests adults aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
This means, that if you're not getting this much sleep, you're probably running up your sleep debt!
If you're running on a sleep debt, even mild deprivation can lead to significant daytime fatigue.
Next up is what you eat!
Consuming a heavy lunch, especially one rich in simple carbohydrates like white bread, can lead to rapid blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes.
The aftermath? The all too familiar post-lunch dip.
Here are some of the most common culprits at lunchtime:
White Bread: Many sandwiches or wraps made with white bread contain refined flour, which breaks down into simple sugars in the body.
Soda and Soft Drinks: These often contain high fructose corn syrup or other added sugars.
Ketchup, BBQ Sauce, and Some Salad Dressings: Many commercial varieties contain added sugars.
Chips and Snacks: Especially those that are flavored or barbecue-style may contain added sugars.
Sweetened Yogurts: While yogurt can be a healthy choice, many commercial fruit yogurts have a high sugar content.
Cookies and Pastries: These are sometimes enjoyed as a dessert or snack with lunch.
Processed Deli Meats: Some varieties, especially honey-roasted or glazed versions, contain added sugars.
Fruit Juices: Even 100% fruit juices are naturally high in fructose, but those with added sugars are especially high in simple sugars.
When considering your lunch options, it's always a good idea to read nutrition labels where available to monitor the intake of added sugars.
Consuming whole foods or preparing meals at home allows for better control over sugar content.
Trauma & the Afternoon Slump
Last, but not least is trauma like Complex PTSD!
For people who have experienced trauma, the dynamics of the afternoon slump can take on additional complexities.
Trauma, be it from abusive relationships, distressing events, or prolonged exposure to harmful environments, can deeply influence one's physiological and psychological responses.
This impact has a notable ripple effect on energy levels, sleep patterns, and overall emotional health, as we talk about here often.
Here are some ways it can affect this midday slump!
Physiological Responses to Trauma
The human brain responds to trauma by heightening the body's stress response, often leading to chronic stress.
This can manifest in an elevation of certain hormone levels, particularly cortisol.
Elevated cortisol levels, especially in the afternoon, can disrupt the body's natural circadian rhythm, further intensifying the afternoon energy slump.
Many trauma survivors struggle with sleep disorders, such as nightmares or insomnia, due to unresolved traumatic memories or anxiety.
Sleep deprivation or interrupted sleep can intensify feelings of fatigue, making the afternoon dip feel even more profound, as we discussed above.
Medications and Therapy
Certain medications prescribed for trauma-related symptoms (like anxiety or depression) can have side effects, including fatigue.
Moreover, therapy sessions, especially if scheduled during early afternoons, can be emotionally taxing, contributing to the feeling of an energy slump.
I've found this true for many of my own clients. Working through trauma stored in the body takes a toll on your Nervous System.
Many of my clients sleep extra, need to drink more water, have lower HRV scores, their body temp increases, etc.
So, what can we do about it?!
Tackling the Afternoon Slump
1. Sleep Right:
Ensuring quality sleep is the first place to start.
Adequate sleep improves sleep quality, helping prevent the afternoon crash.
Assess your sleep habits. Are you getting enough hours of sleep?
I have written extensively on sleep, and how to set yourself up for success when it comes to getting high-quality sleep.
Here are some of those blogs:
As a final note here, if you have a sleep disorder, or suspect you do, it's a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider!
2. Healthy Snacking:
To maintain energy levels, opt for a healthy snack.
Combine complex carbohydrates and healthy protein sources.
Think whole grains and fresh fruits, perhaps a sprinkle of seeds rich in healthy fats.
This combination can prevent blood sugar spikes and provide sustained energy for the rest of the day.
My go-to snack in the afternoons is always a Nu:tropic Bar!
Nu:tropic Bars are scientifically designed to counteract the afternoon slump.
Their prime ingredient, Norwegian Black Oats, provides complex carbohydrates, which are the brain's preferred energy source.
They also have DHA Omega-3, essential for optimal brain function and sourced directly from microalgae, alongside Phosphatidylserine and Choline, both pivotal for cognitive health.
These nutrients, combined, work synergistically to enhance mental energy, focus, and mood.
So, when that afternoon fatigue hits, the science-packed goodness in Nu:tropic Bars offers a potent remedy.
Mild dehydration can mirror the symptoms of fatigue. This isn't surprising since our brains float in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which is 99% water.
Which is why it's so important to ensure you're drinking enough water.
How much water is 'enough'?
While different people have varied needs, aiming for at least 8 cups daily is a good way to start.
4. Organize Your Day Differently:
Just like with exercise, if you can schedule your day around this slump, you’ll be much better off.
For me, this means that in the afternoon, I plan to work on less important tasks!
I try my hard to make sure I’m doing things like admin tasks, social media engagement, email, or general follow-ups in the afternoon, instead of heavier tasks like writing blogs!
I also schedule my calendar backward, meaning, I schedule meetings for as late in the day as possible first, leaving the largest chunk possible in my morning for when my brain has the most focus and energy!
This allows me to have uninterrupted flow blocks to get the most important tasks and projects done!
5. Physical Activity:
Feeling the onset of midday fatigue?
A short walk or light exercise can be a great way to get the blood flowing.
Even a brisk walk in natural light can make a difference, countering the effects of low energy.
If you can do it, I highly recommend scheduling your regular exercise around this slump.
I know my slump hits around 2 PM, so this is right when I work out for the day.
This allows me to get out of my office chair, increase my blood flow, re-energize my brain & body, and I come out after feeling more focused and energized than before!
It's the perfect slump buster.
6. Breaks and Environment:
Taking short breaks, getting fresh air, or even exposing yourself to natural light can combat afternoon fatigue.
Did you know that natural light can synchronize your internal clock and potentially reduce the feeling of fatigue?
Ideally, you're getting 5-10 minutes of unencumbered natural light directly into your eyes in the morning, this can really help you regulate your circadian rhythm that we talked about above!
7. Chew Gum
Some studies suggest that chewing gum can help reduce feelings of fatigue.
One of the primary benefits of chewing gum observed in these studies is increased alertness.
The act of chewing might promote blood flow to the brain, which can increase the availability of oxygen, a crucial component for brain function.
I suggest something minty for an extra brain boost!
8. Napping (Yes, it’s OK):
If your schedule allows, a quick nap or power nap can be beneficial.
However, ensure it's brief (20 minutes or so) to prevent grogginess.
If you go over 20mins, your brain will shift into deeper stages of sleep making it much harder to wake up and feel rejuvenated!
9. Breathing Techniques
I’ve written extensively on breathing as well, but some great ones for increasing your energy and beating this afternoon slump include:
Power Breathing: This technique boosts energy, and alertness, and can also aid in stress release.
Heart Coherence Breathing: This balances the nervous system and fosters a state of coherence between the heart and brain, improving emotional regulation and focus.
Wim Hof Breathing: This method oxygenates the body and brain, enhances resilience to stress, boosts energy, and can even improve the immune response.
Becoming a Slump Buster
As you can see there are healthy ways to navigate the afternoon energy slump.
By understanding its possible reasons and implementing these strategies, you can set the stage for a more energized and productive day.
Remember, everyone is different, and it might take some time to find what works best for you.
Your best bet? Listen to your body, and if concerns persist, always consult with a healthcare professional.
Good luck, and until next time… Live Heroically 🧠
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