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7 Science-Backed Ways to Get Over the Afternoon Slump

Does your energy nosedive every day post-lunch, making it hard for you to work? The afternoon slump affects all adults, but there are some easy ways to get rid of the tiredness. Here’s what you can do.

By Shreya Maji
26 Oct 2021

We have all been there—the midday crash in energy that makes us want to curl up in bed and take a nap. This feeling of decreased energy and sluggishness that affects us in the afternoon is called the “afternoon slump”. There is no single reason behind this phenomenon, but it is usually caused by the body’s circadian rhythm, the body clock that dictates our natural sleep cycle. According to the National Sleep Foundation, USA, the strongest urges to sleep in adults are experienced between 2 and 4 a.m., and 1 and 3 p.m. The urge to sleep in the afternoon can be intensified by going short on sleep the night before, or due to the consumption of a heavy lunch which produces more serotonin, the hormone responsible for regulating our sleep cycle.


The afternoon slump can cause a decrease in productivity by making us feel tired and foggy. We might find it difficult to focus on creative, mentally demanding or detail-oriented tasks. Yawning or dozing through your meetings or other commitments can also be embarrassing. Whether it be because we are on a 9 to 5 schedule at work, or because we have too many activities to cross out on our daily to-do list, we often do not have the time or opportunity to get a power nap. But the good news is that there are many ways you can get over an afternoon slump, even while at work.

1. Turn up the lights
Bright light is one of the most effective ways to combat the afternoon slump. According to a study published in 2016 in PLOS One, exposure to bright light during a post-lunch dip in energy resulted in more alertness and cognitive flexibility, or the ability to switch between tasks. Another study published by Physiology and Behaviour (2015) shows that by increasing the amount of light in their offices, workers feel less sleepy and are more energetic. Open your nearest window and get some sunshine if possible. If you are at your work-station, plugging in an extra table lamp when you feel sluggish should do the trick.


2. Get moving
Movement is one of the easiest ways to feel alert again. Research published in 2017 in PLOS One shows that short bathroom breaks or small stretches at your desk, after sitting at one place for a long period of time, can help you feel energetic. If possible, take a brief walk, preferably outdoors. According to a 2017 study published in Physiology and Behaviour, 10 minutes of low-intensity walking on stairs is equivalent to the energy boost received from a cup of coffee, while another study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology in 2019 shows that participants felt more alert and had improved moods after stepping outdoors for only five minutes.


3. Listen to your favourite tunes
Based on a 2018 research paper published by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, listening to music has been seen to enhance attention, focus, efficiency at work and even creativity. Listen to some upbeat tunes for a boost of energy to get over the afternoon slump. The same research also shows that listening to songs you know and love will have a better energising effect. For demanding or detail-oriented tasks, classical or instrumental music is your friend.


4. Chew gum
Chewing on some gum increases the blood flow through our head and brain, making us feel more awake and attentive. According to Nutritional Neuroscience, chewing gum can also increase our concentration, which helps us focus on boring or repetitive tasks when we are tired. Choose a peppermint or spearmint flavoured gum for that extra kick of refreshment.


5. Eat a light, healthy snack
The afternoon slump is often exacerbated by the sugar crash following a lunch heavy in refined carbohydrates. This waning of blood sugar is accompanied by cravings for more sugar, for which you will need a snack. For a healthy option, choose a snack that combines protein and complex carbs, such as a slice of multigrain bread with some almond or peanut butter, yoghurt (for probiotics), a boiled egg or some fruit. You can also eat a piece of dark chocolate, which is low in sugar but has a gentle hit of caffeine to wake you up.


6. Watch a funny video
Research and studies have linked laughter to stress relief and soothing tension for a long time. One particular study from the University of Nebraska, USA, in 2015 showed that participants who watched a short funny video experienced an immediate energy boost. An increase in blood pressure and the release of dopamine (the hormone responsible for triggering happy feelings) are believed to be responsible for this.


7. Try aromatherapy
Aromatherapy has become increasingly popular to combat fatigue or low energy. It directly influences areas of the brain that make you feel tired and stressed. A study conducted by Performance and Nutrition Research Centre, UK, in 2018, shows that aromatherapy can increase attentiveness and performance. To get over your afternoon slump, rub some diluted peppermint or rosemary essential oil or scent-infused lotion between your fingers and pat it on your face. Place a few drops of oil on a tissue paper or cotton ball and keep it near your work-station. You can also use a room diffuser to disperse the scent of these essential oils around you.


Mahathi 30 Dec 2021

Taking a cold shower always works! If at home

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