Afternoon Slump: What It Is and the Different Ways To Beat It

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated March 28, 2022 | Published February 22, 2021

Updated March 28, 2022

Published February 22, 2021

Many professionals experience a decrease in productivity after lunch. Knowing how to avoid or overcome this exhaustion, sometimes called "the afternoon slump," can increase your productivity and make activities more enjoyable. When you understand what causes the afternoon slump, it becomes easier to address. In this article, we discuss what the afternoon slump is, what causes it and how you can overcome it.

What is the afternoon slump?

The afternoon slump is a period of the day, typically between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., in which a person loses some of their energy and motivation. People commonly feel tired when they experience the afternoon slump, but it also involves difficulty with focus.

The most common symptoms of the afternoon slump are:

  • Suddenly feeling tired or lethargic

  • Muscle weakness

  • Frequent yawning

  • Being irritable or feeling down

  • Headaches or stomach aches

Related: How To Be More Productive

What causes the afternoon slump?

The main cause of the afternoon slump is your body's circadian rhythms, which are 24-hour cycles that regulate daily behavioral patterns. They influence and induce states such as sleepiness and hunger, helping people naturally know when it's time for each. This natural response causes most people to reach the peak of their sleepiness between 2-4 a.m. and between 1-3 p.m.

Lifestyle factors can also contribute to the afternoon slump, such as:

  • Not getting enough sleep the night before

  • A carbohydrate-heavy diet

  • Being dehydrated

  • Experiencing high levels of stress

Related: 6 Ways To Optimize Your Daily Schedule

Ways to overcome the afternoon slump

Consider these methods when trying to overcome the afternoon slump:

Use the time to exercise

Physical activity is generally a good way to increase your alertness and energy levels. Ideally, using that time to jog or to do a light workout is the ideal. However, your workday may not allow for this, so you can get a similar effect by simply taking a quick five-minute walk or standing up to stretch your arms and legs. Resources for desk and office yoga may provide you with simple exercises you can incorporate into your work routine.

Spend time in the sun

Sitting in the sun for a few minutes tells the body that it's not time to sleep. Exposure to sunlight also boosts vitamin D production, with benefits ranging from healthier bones to a stronger immune system. If you're able to eat your lunch outside or in a sunny spot indoors, this can provide you with some energy to combat the afternoon slump.

Related: 5 Key Tips for Improving Your Time Management Skills

Eat more protein for lunch

Having carbohydrates for lunch can increase serotonin, which calms the body and contributes to daytime fatigue. Eating a protein-rich lunch with vegetables may increase your alertness and attention span. Smaller portions are generally better for your energy levels than large ones, so it's acceptable to reserve some of your food for a mid-afternoon snack.

Eat a healthy breakfast

Having a nutritious breakfast can boost your energy for the entire day. Eating enough in the morning can also reduce your appetite for lunch, which can help you avoid eating too much and feeling lethargic as a result.

Track and monitor your productivity

When fatigue sets in, it's easy to become distracted from your work. Setting goals for the afternoon before you take your lunch break can help you stay focused on what you want to accomplish. A productivity app or simple bulleted checklist can divide your afternoon tasks into manageable steps, making them easier to complete even when you are feeling tired.

Establish healthy sleep patterns

If you do not get enough sleep, this can disrupt your body's natural circadian rhythms and exacerbate afternoon slump symptoms. To establish good sleep habits, you might set a reminder in your phone each evening telling you when it's time to prepare for bed and aim to get into bed at approximately the same time each night.

Listen to music

Listening to your favorite music is a good way of gaining energy and avoiding the afternoon slump. If your job accommodates it, listening to quiet music while you work may improve your mood and attention. Familiar songs are generally a good choice for repetitive tasks, while instrumental music can increase performance when you are trying to learn or focus on something complex.

Use the afternoon for collaborative work

You are more likely to suffer from the afternoon slump when you perform solitary work activities, such as writing a long document. Team activities usually have the opposite effect, boosting energy and improving concentration. This variety in your day can also help time appear to pass more quickly, which can be refreshing when you return to your solitary tasks.

Related: Meeting Tips To Get You Working More Efficiently

Keep yourself hydrated

In many cases, a significant cause of the afternoon slump is simply dehydration. Keep yourself hydrated by keeping a water bottle nearby and regularly drinking from it throughout the morning and afternoon.

Reduce your sugar intake

Eating sugar can offer you a short-term energy boost, but it eventually fades and leaves you with even less energy than you had before. If you feel the need for a light snack between meals, it's advisable to choose a protein-based food, like nuts or a small piece of cheese. If you have a sugar craving, a small piece of dark chocolate can be a good choice, as it contains healthy fats and antioxidants and only a small amount of sugar.

Avoid drinking alcohol the night before

Drinking alcohol can reduce your energy levels due to its impact on sleep quality. During the work week, try to minimize alcohol consumption. If you do drink alcohol on a weeknight, it's best that you only have one or two drinks at a time so you can avoid a significant afternoon slump the next day.

Practice meditation

Learning to meditate, even for short periods of time, can help you achieve mental clarity when you are feeling tired or stressed. You can find a quiet place and sit still for 15 minutes while focusing on your breathing, or you can try using a meditation app or website while at your desk.

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