A question for all the workers out there, regardless of your schedule. Does this scenario sound familiar to you?
You’re cruising through the first part of your day feeling super productive as tasks are flying off your to do list. After a lunch break, you round the corner for the second half of your day…and then it hits you like a brick wall. You suddenly feel mentally and physically drained, and it is becoming harder and harder to focus on your work. The momentum you have been building feels like it’s suddenly been lost.
Chances are some of you are nodding your heads yes right now, and there is a good reason why. Afternoon fatigue (whenever your ‘afternoon’ is) is a very common issue, so today we will discuss why it happens and what you can do about it.
Causes of Afternoon Fatigue
That drowsy feeling you get shortly after lunch is referred to as the “afternoon slump” and sometimes the “2:30 feeling” because many day shift workers experience it between the hours of 2 and 3 pm. For shift workers, it obviously varies based on the time you work, but the concept is the same.
Science hints at several potential causes for afternoon fatigue, including:
1. The Circadian Rhythm
The circadian rhythm is your body’s internal system which regulates sleepiness and wakefulness. Researchers have found that wakefulness tends to dip between 1-3 pm when our body temperature naturally starts to drop, just as it does at nighttime.
In essence, people are biologically wired for two sleep cycles – a long period during the night and a short period during the mid-afternoon. In fact, a 1986 study on napping “gave us the first conclusive evidence that the afternoon nap is internally generated by the brain as part of the biological clock for sleep/wake cycles.”
Biology aside, researchers say that the most common reason for that 2:30 feeling is post-lunch reactive hypoglycemia or a drop in blood sugar that occurs in those who are not diabetic. This typically happens within four hours of eating a meal that is high in carbohydrates.
Another dietary factor that is sometimes at play is dehydration since not drinking enough water can cause tiredness, fatigue and poor concentration.
3. Poor Sleep Habits
Poor sleep habits like not getting enough quality hours or having inconsistent sleep patterns are also contributing factors. That cup of coffee or sugary breakfast provides a temporary boost in the morning, but it wears off by the afternoon, and you begin to feel the afternoon slump.
6 Ways to Fight Afternoon Fatigue
Fortunately, there are many tips we can give you to help avoid the ‘afternoon slump’. An important note of caution before we get to the list though. If your afternoon fatigue is severe or if establishing healthier habits like the ones listed below just don’t seem to be working, see your doctor as it may be something more serious.
Now let’s help you fight that afternoon slump!
1. Improve Your Sleep at Night
Most people need about 8 hours of sleep per night, and everyone can benefit from creating a consistent sleep schedule where you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. To make it happen, start working on creating a better nighttime routine that will help prepare your body for sleep. In this blog post, we analyzed the sleep habits of some of the most successful people and shared their secrets to a developing a healthy nighttime routine.
2. Start with a Good Quality Breakfast
Your body needs an energy and nutrient boost in the morning. Instead of coffee and a donut, turn to fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains.
3. Drink Water Frequently
Avoid dehydration by keeping a bottle of water nearby. Placing it in a visible spot will help you remember to drink regularly.
4. Go Light on Carbs at Lunch
This especially goes for refined carbohydrates, which enter your system quickly and cause spikes in blood sugar (unlike whole grains that are absorbed more slowly). Include protein in your lunch because it will provide the fuel you need for the afternoon.
5. Get Up and Move
When you feel fatigue starting to set in, engage in some physical activity such as climbing several flights of stairs or taking a brisk walk. This will get your body warmed up, which will fight the body temperature drop that is causing your drowsiness. Move around regularly during the day as well, because sitting too much can also cause fatigue.
6. Take a Nap
While napping may not be a luxury for all of us, many companies including Google, Facebook, and Nike realize the benefit of allowing their employees to have a little nap time when it is needed. Check out the tips in this article to learn how to get the perfect power nap.
Afternoon fatigue may be common, but it can have some pretty serious effects. If you work a desk job, you know that the 2:30 feeling can mean a huge loss of productivity, which is financially costly for the business. If you are a driver or someone who operates heavy machinery, afternoon fatigue can be a workplace safety issue. For example, there is plenty of research that shows there is a spike in drowsy-driving crashes in the mid-afternoon.
Help avoid afternoon fatigue by following the tips above. Staying alert in those afternoon hours will boost your productivity and improve safety in your workplace.
Sleepwell Consulting can help your workers improve their sleep habits so they can become stronger team members. To learn more, visit our Corporate Sleep Solutions page.