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11 simple tips to beat the afternoon slump

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This past Wednesday I was powering through my day and felt unstoppable. I was productive all morning, early afternoon, and all of a sudden it was 3 pm and I was ready for a nap. Oh no, what happened you wonder? Where did all that energy go? As I gazed at the clock yet once again it hit me, I’d hit the afternoon slump.

What causes the afternoon slump?

The afternoon slump is real. If you’ve experienced this phenomenon, you’re far from alone.

Several studies have confirmed the so-called “afternoon slump”. The National Sleep Foundation pointed a sharp drop in circadian rhythm that plummets between 2 and 5 p.m. every day.

Circadian rhythm cycle of a typical teenager. Credit: NIGMS.

The circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock which dictates when you need to eat, rest, work, and move.

This rhythm is deeply impacted by light and dark in your environment.

I’m sure you’ve experienced the afternoon slump.

You have wondered if there’s a cure since you can’t crawl into your bed for a nap. In this article, you’ll learn how to beat the afternoon slump, make it more manageable to get through your day.

1. Rethink caffeine

What I notice during the afternoon slump in my office is that everyone starts drinking coffee and energy drinks.

Perhaps your natural temptation is also to reach for caffeine as soon as the afternoon slump hits you.

Before you do that, pause and think since your decision will potentially have dire consequences.

If you want to get a good night’s rest and avoid anxiety, then rethink your caffeine consumption if you’re feeling tired in the afternoon.

The primary reason it’s better NOT to drink caffeine when you hit the afternoon slump is because of its half-life. Half-life is the amount of time it takes for a quantity of a substance to be reduced to half the original amount and according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, caffeine’s half-life is up to 5 hours.

So if you drink a cup of coffee at 3 pm, your sleep will be negatively affected. You’ll be tossing and turning way past midnight wondering why you can’t get a good night’s rest.

2. Get some sunlight

Remember what I said about circadian rhythms and light?

If you’re like me and stuck inside an office with artificial light all day, you have my sympathies. I hate the fluorescent lighting so when I’m sleepy in the afternoon, I go outside and take a 10-minute walk.

Light can help improve your alertness, and getting natural daylight will help reset your circadian rhythm and remind your body that you need to keep functioning.

So make an effort to go outside when the afternoon slump hits, and get some sunlight.

3. Move your body

Exercise is a fantastic stress reliever that can work in minutes. Taking a walk allows you to get a change of scenery, obtain a new perspective and increase your energy.

So whether you just take a stroll around the office to get a break from a daunting task or go for a long walk in a park, this activity is a simple yet effective way to rejuvenate your mind and body.

In addition, when you take a walk (hopefully outside) you’ll get the added benefits of exposure to sunlight which improves your alertness, focus and regulates your sleep-wake cycle.

4. Try the Pomodoro Technique

We all want to be more productive and be more focused right? One way you can achieve that is to try the Pomodoro Technique which helps with time management. This technique directs you to work in short (typically 25 minute) bursts, followed by short breaks.

Research shows that brief breaks can vastly improve your focus. This will also help you view your workload as more manageable, which will prevent your midday motivation from taking a nosedive.

5. Organize your schedule for optimal performance

Are you more alert and focused in the morning or evening?

I’ve noticed that I have a surge of energy between 9 am-11 am so I try to take advantage of that and complete my challenging tasks during that time.

Pantea Rahimian

Take control. Feel better.

Start your Self-care Journey.

Take control.
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Since the afternoon slump usually hits me around 3 pm, I avoid scheduling meetings or tasks that require a lot of attention because I’m tired and unable to focus.

If you have flexibility over your scheduling, identify which times you work best and move things around so you’re not cramming a task when you’re exhausted.

6. Switch tasks

Ever noticed that when you shift tasks from something dragging on to something new you feel better?

A woman with head down because of afternoon slump

Your brain loves change (even if you sometimes don’t) so reward yourself with something new.

Next time you’ve hit the afternoon slump, shift gears and try working on a different task. You’ll notice that you’re more productive and focused.

7. Listen to music

One of the best motivation and energy boosts techniques is to listen to music. When I’m feeling tired, bored, or cranky, then I reach for my headphones and start playing my favorite workout music.

What’s even better is listening to music while going on a walk outside. That way I’m getting natural sunlight, movement, and listening to music. Now that’s a power of 3!

So next time you need help getting through the afternoon slump, find your favorite station and play a few songs. Within a few moments, you’ll notice the feelings of tiredness evaporate.

8. Notice how your lunch affects you

Ever notice that after a heavy meal you want to take an afternoon siesta? Yeah, the reason that happens is that eating a meal rich in both protein and carbohydrates may make a person sleepy.

Feeling tired after a meal can be frustrating, especially after lunch, when you may need to be alert.

That’s why it’s better to do your work that requires deep focus when you’re at your productive peak (usually in the morning).

So you can choose a lunch that’s made up of foods that help you feel your best! Protein is usually a good choice for feeling sustained and energized throughout the afternoon.

To learn more about this check out The best meal planning guide for beginners.

9. Drink some water-you might be dehydrated

You’ve probably heard me say it before, but your brain needs to be well hydrated in order for you to function well, stay alert, and have energy.

If you notice yourself powering through your day on coffee and you hit the afternoon slump, it’s likely due to you being extremely dehydrated.

Woman drinking from a glass of water

Instead of reaching for a cookie or afternoon latte, focus on drinking water throughout the entire day, especially in the morning.

When you wake up in the morning, have a glass of room temperature water. Carry a water bottle with you and try to drink at least 20 oz every 2 hours.

Staying hydrated makes you more alert, energetic and productive.

In addition, drinking water also helps you lose weight, which is an added bonus.

10. Taking a true break is the key to re-starting your productivity

For those of you who like me, feel their energy start to fade around 3 pm, then the best thing for you to do is to stop what you’re doing and take an actual break.

Taking a break means closing your computer, moving your body, unplugging from technology, and going outside for some fresh air and sunlight.

In other words, when you take a break and pause what you’re doing, you’ll actually be more productive and get your work done when you return rather than pushing through your afternoon fatigue.

If you have no choice but to push through your afternoon slump, try changing up the type of work you’re doing. You can try to brainstorm or approach creative tasks when you’re tired since you’re less likely to second-guess yourself.

11. Avoid social media

Scrolling through social media is another activity I’ve noticed my colleagues do when they have a few free minutes during the day.

Yes I understand, viewing photos or videos on Instagram can be entertaining or even mindless but it’s likely to cause you to feel exhausted later.

A group of women looking at their phones while standing

In fact, too much screen time isn’t good for anyone. The amount of time you’re looking at your computer during the day, then your phone and TV later adds up to a lot for your brain to process.

So instead of grabbing your phone to scroll through social media, get up from your desk and go for a walk. You’re giving your brain some time to reboot instead of filling it with more data to process later!

Wrap-up

Now that you’ve discovered 11 different ways to beat the afternoon slump, you have the tools to take care of your focus and productivity.

While we do not have the luxury of changing our natural circadian rhythm, there’s a lot of options you have to take charge of and make changes to your habits, routines, and even your environment.

Remember, simple adjustments like natural light, movement, and switching tasks can make significant differences for you.

I know that I’m more likely to reach for a glass of water rather than coffee when I hit the afternoon slump, what about you?

What are your tried and tested tips to get rid of the afternoon slump? Is there a secret way to boost the energy that you want to share with others? Please share your stories and comments below.

Now, it's up to you to take action!

  1. Share this article on social media to support me in publishing more high-quality content in the future
  2. Get started now and include what you’ve learned throughout this article in your daily routine
Pantea Rahimian

Take control. Feel better.

Start your Self-care Journey.

Take control.
Feel better.

Start your
Self-care Journey.

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Pantea Rahimian

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