22 Ways to Beat the Afternoon Slump

Trying and failing to keep those eyes open at 2pm? You’re not alone. Learn how to boost energy to avoid the midday slump.
22 Ways to Beat the Afternoon Slump

22 Ways to Beat the Afternoon Slump

Most of us have been there: a super-productive morning finishing projects, working towards inbox zero, and fighting the urge to tweet at co-workers. (Just us?) Then the clock strikes two and we might as well pull down the shades, throw on pajamas, and hop into bed.

It’s completely normal to feel super-tired once the afternoon rolls around. Circadian rhythms, which affect our sleep patterns, may be to blame for the midday-slump. In fact, our “sleep signals” peak at night and during the afternoon (right around 2pm!), which may explain why we want to grab an afternoon cat nap Circadian rhythm in normal and pathological sleep. Billiard, M., Carlander, B., Besset, A. Service de Neurologie B, Hôpital Gui-de-Chauliac, Montpellier, France. Pathologie-Biologie, 1996 Jun;44(6):509-17.. Other factors, like what we eat, hydration levels, and how much time we spend staring at a screen can also affect those tired eyes.

Think it's time to curl up in the cubicle? Here are some ways to fix the fatigue as soon as sleepiness strikes.

Quick Fixes

1. Work Out

A midday trip to the gym may not only boost productivity; it could ward off sleepiness, too A randomized controlled trial of the effect of aerobic exercise training on feelings of energy and fatigue in sedentary young adults with persistent fatigue. Puetz, T.W., Flowers, SS., O’Connor, P.J. Department of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 2008;77(3):167-74. Epub 2008 Feb 14.. Stick to some light aerobic exercise before getting back to the books. Don’t have time to hit the gym? Try these deskercises to work out at work.
 

2. Step Back From the Screen

In order to avoid eyestrain (which can make the eyes feel tired) keep a safe distance from the computer screen—about an arm’s length. That, or try a pair of snazzy computer glasses.
 

3. Stretch it Out

Feelin’ stiff? Stretching out can provide a quick boost of energy. If there’s no stretching station in sight, try a handful of these desk stretches to keep the muscles loose.
 

4. Move Around

A change of scenery may boost productivity, so do some work at a coffee shop or camp out in a meeting room. Try to park near a window for some natural light, which may keep us more alert.
 

5. Grab a Towel

Splash some cold water on your face to wake up.
 

6. Sip Green Tea

With less caffeine than a cup of coffee, a mug of green tea can give us that afternoon pick-me-up without making us stay awake all night. Plus its nutritional benefits are enough to keep anyone wide-eyed!
 

7. Talk it Out

Instead of emailing a coworker down the hall, take a trip to his/her cubicle and talk in person. This’ll stretch out the legs while providing a break from staring at the screen.
 

8. Have a Snack

Not meal time yet? Have a snack to help boost energy levels. Try an ounce of cheese, a handful of nuts, or another high-protein snack to keep alert.
 

9. Try a Walking Meeting

Take that meeting to the streets and discuss what you would in the office outdoors. Here at Greatist, we love doing laps around the neighborhood for some fresh air!
 

10. Switch Tasks

Working on the same project for five hours? Try tackling something else to stay stimulated and keep things fresh at the desk.
 

11. Take a Catnap

Sometimes the best remedy for fatigue is to simply shut the eyes. Learn how to power nap (10-20 minutes of snooze time!) to get that midday boost you really need Benefits of napping in healthy adults: impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. Milner, C.E., Cote, K.A. Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Journal of Sleep Research 2009 Jun; 18(2): 272-281.

12. Schedule an Appointment

Have to hit up the dentist? Schedule an appointment during lunch for some forced activity that prevents us from feeling doze-y. This way, you avoid eating at your desk, too!
 

13. Take a Break

Tired? Take five to do something besides work (like calling a friend or doing a crossword puzzle) in order to give your body and mind a break! Use these tips to relax in five quick minutes before getting back to the grind.
 

14. Chew Gum

Afternoon energy may be as simple as chewing gum (seriously) Chewing can relieve sleepiness in a night of sleep deprivation. Hodoba, D. Department of Psychiatric Research and EEG & Psychophysiology Vrapce, 10090 Zagreb, Croatia. Sleep Research Online, 1999;2(4):101-5.. Stick to the sugar-free kind, or be on the lookout for the caffeinated versions Caffeine Gum and Cycling Performance: A Timing Study. Ryan, E.J., Kim, C.H., Fickes, E.J., et al. Department of Exercise Physiology, Kent, OH Department of Exercise Science, 234 A Buhl Hall, Chatham University, Pittsburgh,PA. Journal of Strength an Conditioning Research, 2012 Apr 3..

15. Turn Up the Tunes

Listening to some favorite music might help us focus and feel more energized The effect of personality type and musical task on self-perceived arousal. Lim, H.A. Sam Houston State University. Journal of Music Therapy, 2008 Summer;45(2):147-64. Effects of music listening and relaxation instructions on arousal changes and the working memory task in older adults. Hirokawa, E. University of Kansas. Journal of Music Therapy, 2004 Summer;41(2):107-27.. Pro tip? Listen with headphones to really hone in on a task and side-step sleepiness.

All-Day Assists

Try to get into the habit of these helpful tips in order to prevent the midday slump from happening in the first place!

16. Remember Breakfast

Forgoing the most important meal of the day may lead to an energy crash come 2pm. Remember to eat a healthy breakfast to sustain energy throughout the day. Tight for time? Try these on-the-go breakfast ideas.

17. Eat a Small(er) Lunch

Supersizing that sandwich may be the reason for midday fatigue. Opt for a smaller (but satisfying) lunch; choose something with more protein and less carbohydrates to dodge drowsiness, like a salad with grilled chicken or a black bean burger.

18. Avoid Sugar

A little sugar may go a long way—in the wrong direction. Consuming some sweets may provide a sugar-high that will only lead to a sugar crash, causing us to become even sleepier A high sugar content, low caffeine drink does not alleviate sleepiness but may worsen it. Anderson, C., Horne, J.A. Sleep Research Centre, Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK. Human Psychopharmacology, 2006 Jul;21(5):299-303..

19. Stay Hydrated

In order to avoid dehydration and its sleepy side effects, just keep sipping. Aim for 11-16 cups a day. (Yeah, we’re serious.)

20. Stand Up

Whether or not you’re Slim Shady, please stand up. Staying on our feet could help avoid drowsiness and increase focus. Grab a standing desk and work away!

21. Skip the Booze

Ease up at the office happy hour. Fatigue is a symptom of the good ol’ hangover, so avoid drinking during the week, or keep consumption at a minimum. (One to two drinks!)

22. Get Enough Sleep

This may be a no-brainer, but getting enough sleep is vital to staying energized throughout the day A dose-response study of total sleep time and the ability to maintain wakefulness. Harma, M., Suvanto, S., Popkin, S., et al. Department of Physiology, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland. Journal of Sleep Research, 1998 Sep;7(3):167-74.. Can’t sleep? Here are 32 solutions to help drift into dreamland.

This article has been read by Greatist Experts Jordan Syatt and Jessica Redmond. 

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