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How to beat the 3pm slump

The pesky phenomenon responsible for zapping your afternoon energy.

If you’ve noticed the clock ticks slower, your stomach grumbles louder and your energy depletes faster in the afternoon – this is no coincidence. That energy drop, or, the ‘3pm slump’ as it’s dubbed, isn’t merely corporate jargon – it’s a real health phenomenon.

The 3pm slump is essentially a term for afternoon tiredness when you find your energy depletes. Though it’s called the 3pm slump, you may find that your afternoon crash begins as early as lunch time. Here’s what you might experience if you’re having an afternoon slump:

  • Sudden onset of fatigue: This is the biggest sign. You’ll know you’re in the peak of an afternoon energy slump when you feel that you can’t even stay awake at your desk. 
  • Low motivation: As your energy depletes, so does your motivation to work. 
  • Brain fog: Even when you can push through the doziness, you may find that brain fog will hold your ability to work at ransom. 
The 3pm slump can make finishing the work day impossible.

What causes the 3pm slump?

Essentially, our 3pm sluggishness boils down to our circadian rhythms.

“Our internal body clocks work on a 24-hour cycle that regulates how awake and how sleepy we get during the day. These clocks are ‘reset’ and regulated by light exposure through morning and night time,” explains nutritional scientist Dr. Flavia.

“These body clocks not only influence when we get sleepy, or awake, but they also help control appetite, mood, and metabolism.”

If you’re wondering how to stop feeling tired in the afternoon, you can make a few tweaks to your sleep hygiene. This includes no screen time before bed, waking up and sleeping at the same time each day and ensuring you get plenty of natural light during the day.

Besides sleepiness, food can also play a major role in the 3pm slump. If we eat a heavy lunch then the hours after our break, our energy can be diverted into digesting.

“Have a good balanced lunch. You want a good mix of protein, fibre and fats to ensure a consistent energy release in the afternoon,” Dr. Flavia says.

“Having lunch at the same time everyday can also help. We even have body clocks that control when we release our digestive enzymes!”

What you eat for lunch (and where you eat it) plays a pivotal role in your energy during the work day.

How to avoid the 3pm slump

Though the afternoon slump can be debilitating when it rolls around, you can fight it with some really simple tactics. Here’s how to beat 3pm slump.

  1. Stretch: Sometimes simply standing up and having a stretch can boost your energy. If you don’t want to stretch, you could try a standing desk
  2. Take a walk: If you have a few minutes to spare, why not step into the sunshine and take a brisk walk? The change of scenery and the sunshine should have your energy boosted by the time you get back to your desk.
  3. Eat lunch outside: As Dr. Flavia explained, natural light is essential to regulate our circadian rhythm. If you normally eat lunch at your desk or in the lunchroom, try finding a nice spot outside to eat for a change. 
  4. Practice mindfulness: Practising mindfulness at work has a slew of benefits, but it can also revive you from your 3pm slump. Check out The Weekly’s guide to mindfulness at work.
  5. Have a siesta: The Europeans have the right idea with an afternoon siesta! If circumstances allow, try having a power nap to recharge when that 3pm slump hits.
  6. Have a snack: Another way to combat mid-afternoon sluggishness is to have a high-protein snack like cheese or nuts.
  7. Switch tasks: If you can’t do any of the above, break the brain monotony and boost your energy levels by switching tasks.

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