Everybody experiences peaks and troughs of energy throughout the day. Unfortunately, the pressures of the modern world mean we can’t simply curl up and take a nap when experiencing a drop in vitality. We need to manage and prevent afternoon energy crashes.
Starting the day with a good breakfast, defined by slow-release carbohydrates, should be your first step. Don’t drink too much caffeine, swapping your second or third coffee of the day for a glass of water to remain hydrated.
Plan your day intelligently. It’s unrealistic to expect to remain at peak energy and concentration for eight hours straight, so schedule breaks and mundane tasks that require less thought into your to-do list.
Periodically stimulating your senses will also perk you up before succumbing to an afternoon slump. Use essential oils to keep sharp, and listen to some of your favorite music. This will help you keep going and guide you through an unwelcome lull in energy.
Why Does My Energy Crash in the Afternoon?
The human body is governed by circadian rhythms that tell us when we should head to bed and when we should wake up. Less well-known is that these rhythms also lead to mid-afternoon slumps in energy.
At some point after lunch, usually between 1 pm and 3 pm, the body experiences a dip in core temperature. As explained by the Journal of Sleep Research, this is comparable to the feeling of drowsiness that arises at night.
Essentially, your circadian rhythms signal to the body that it’s time to sleep. Unfortunately, the modern world isn’t set up for this. As a result, many of us fight this instinct, leading to a steep decline in vim and vigor.
Everybody experiences different afternoon energy crash symptoms, but they often take on some variation of the following:
- Inability to stop yawning
- Growing irritable or emotional, often for no good reason
- Feeling a tingle, ache, or weakness in the joints or muscles
- Blurring at the corner of your vision
- Trouble concentrating and taking in new information
- Craving for sugar or carbohydrates
If you feel an afternoon energy crash coming on, it’s best to take action as soon as possible.
In the longer term, your ambition should be to prevent a slump in energy from taking hold at all. All the same, fight off this sharp decline in vigor as it arises.
How to Avoid an Afternoon Energy Slump
If you’re prone to a sudden energy crash every afternoon, the first thing you should assess is your sleeping habits. Are you getting enough rest in the evening? It’s not quite as simple as saying that you sleep eight hours, so you must be OK.
Some people need longer than eight hours of slumber to function at capacity. As per The Lancet, sleep debt can cause significant problems if it accumulates. If you constantly feel exhausted, consider if you’re sleeping enough.
If you’re confident that the current day’s events cause any extreme mid-afternoon fatigue, adjust your lifestyle accordingly. You’re likelier to get through the day without a significant slump with some slight tweaks.
Plan a Strategic Schedule
You know yourself and your body better than anybody, so you’ll know when you’re likeliest to be productive during a day – and, more importantly, when you are most likely to succumb to an energy crash. Armed with this information, plan your schedule accordingly.
If you tend to start the day full of energy and mental clarity, schedule your demanding or complex duties for this point. If something requires significant effort or concentration, it’ll be even more difficult while you’re fighting an energy lull.
You can schedule a group or collaborative project for the afternoon. Meetings aren’t ideal. If you’re having an energy slump, your mind will likely wander if you’re stuck in a meeting that could have been an email.
Projects that require interaction with others will pull you out of your funk, though. Simply going through the motions and waiting for the day to pass will not be an option if other people expect your input and interaction. This can keep your mind sharp.
Take Periodic Breaks
If you’re feeling tired and feel a bigger energy crash on the horizon, the worst thing you can do is attempt to keep going and ignore it. Eventually, you’re going to slump – and if you have not taken any breaks, you’ll crash harder than ever.
Whenever possible, take a break from what you’re doing. That doesn’t mean wandering off and taking a nap, and that’s unlikely to be possible if you’re at work anyway. Just give your mind a chance to reset itself every couple of hours.
Step outside and take a breath of fresh air, maybe even wandering around the block if time and commitments allow. Perform a basic household task if you’re at home, like washing the dishes or folding the dishes. Just sit down and read the newspaper if you can.
The idea here is to step outside your ongoing routine and let your mind and body take a breather. This is especially important if you are stressed and your body produces cortisol at a rate of knots. Rest assured, you’ll be back to your duties soon enough.
Eat Correctly Throughout the Day
One of the most effective ways to avoid an energy crash is to eat appropriately. Knowing what to eat for lunch to avoid an afternoon slump is a crucial component, but only one step. The process begins with breakfast.
Even if you don’t relish the idea of eating in the morning, try not to skip breakfast. Opt for something comparatively light that offers slow-release carbohydrates that’ll continue to fuel your brain and body until lunchtime.
Lunch is vital to your afternoon energy levels. It’s no secret that a heavy lunch that leaves you feeling bloated and weighed down will result in an energy crash. Don’t go to the other extreme and grab a light salad.
The body needs fuel to function through the afternoon, especially when circadian rhythms dictate that you would much rather be sleeping. Ensure that your lunch comprises equal parts protein and carbohydrate, and avoid fats that’ll leave you feeling sluggish.
When your energy starts to wane in the afternoon, stop and ask yourself a question. When was the last time you took in some fluid, and was that a glass of water? As per the British Journal of Nutrition, mild dehydration is often linked to fatigue and slumps in performance.
Experts claim that we should drink eight 8oz glasses of water daily, but few people manage this. This means that your body’s water reserves will be severely depleted by the afternoon and need replacement.
Water is most effective when sipped on throughout the day, so don’t just guzzle a liter of water when you feel tired. Keep a bottle by your desk and keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. If you struggle to remember, set an alarm to remind yourself to sip once an hour.
Avoid Excessive Caffeine and Sugar
You may be tempted to go for a short-term fix if you’re crashing. The sugar found in a candy bar from a vending machine and a coffee or energy drink will spike your dynamism for a while, but this artificial high isn’t sustainable.
If you have tucked into a sugary snack, expect the so-called “sugar rush” to last around 30 to 40 minutes. After this comes the crash. Your body produced excessive insulin to regulate the sharp increase of sugar, and glucose levels are now too low.
You’ll be just as tired as before, if not more, and once again find yourself craving sugar and carbohydrates. This risks starting the whole process over again.
Caffeine brings different concerns. Assuming you haven’t already consumed too much, caffeine blocks adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a chemical compound released throughout the day, making us drowsy.
Block adenosine, and you’ll theoretically prevent the arrival of an energy crash. That is unless you already have caffeine in your bloodstream. Excessive caffeine makes the brain panic and floods the body with adenosine, so you’ll be more exhausted than ever.
Listen to Music
Listening to music can be a great pick-me-up, especially when you’re starting to flag in the afternoon. PLoS One confirms that listening to favorite music reduces stress responses in the body, so you’re likelier to remain calm and negotiate your potential energy slump.
The Journal of the American Medical Association also explains that music improves cognitive performance, keeping the mind sharp and hands steady. Music can make this possible if you need to concentrate through a traditionally sleepy afternoon period.
Get Some Exercise
If you’re wondering how to get a burst of energy in the afternoon, tiring yourself out with physical activity may seem counter-productive. Remember that physical exercise releases endorphins. This means you’ll enjoy a spike in energy in the aftermath.
You don’t need to pack your gym bag and work out for hours. A brisk walk during your lunch break work may do the trick. Work up a mild sweat and spend some time outside, taking in deep lungfuls of fresh air and allowing Vitamin D to sink into your skin.
Taking exercise in the afternoon will also pay off later in the evening. You’re likelier to fall into a natural and restful sleep if you have been physically active during the day. This, in turn, gives you a fighting chance of staving off an energy crash the next day.
Activate Your Senses
Keeping your senses active throughout the day is a way to avoid an afternoon slump. Energy crashes are enhanced by monotony and lack of sensation. By shaking things up now and again, you’ll remain stimulated and engaged.
Your sense of smell is the easiest way to achieve this. Consider the use of essential oils. If you are at home or in another environment that encourages such practice, you can release scents through an oil burner. If not, apply some to your wrists and inhale periodically.
Studies have shown that the following essential oils can help you stave off an afternoon energy crash:
- Sweet Orange
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends peppermint if you need physical energy for manual labor or athletic feats. Sweet orange is often linked with replacing lost energy.
If you’re seeking mental sharpness and improved cognitive function, the Alexandria Journal of Medicine suggests turning to rosemary, while Physiological Behavior recommends mixing this with spearmint. Lemon, meanwhile, is widely considered to be uplifting.
Whether you battle your drop in vitality with an afternoon energy boost supplement or by stepping outside, do whatever it takes to continue functioning.
It may not be an option to cave into an energy crash and sleep, but that doesn’t mean we need to allow them to define our day. Factor a dip into your schedule, and you’ll find that an afternoon energy slump doesn’t need to be as impactful.