We’ve all experienced it: you’re functioning on high all morning, cruising along, crossing tasks off your to-do list left and right. Then out of nowhere, you go from 60 to 0 in 3.5. What gives? Most of us are aware this drop in energy is thanks to the so-called “3 p.m. slump,” but where does it come from, can we combat it, and if so, what do we do?
Understand your internal clock
Turns out the clock striking a certain hour dictates much more than a carriage turning back into a pumpkin. According to the National Sleep Foundation, our internal clocks are the lead culprit to our mid-afternoon sluggishness. “The circadian rhythm dips and rises at different times of the day, so adults’ strongest sleep drive generally occurs between 2:00-4:00 a.m. and in the afternoon between 1:00-3:00 p.m.”
What many of us assume is our body using all our energy to metabolize our lunch is simply our own internal clock saying “it’s nap time!” And while a siesta isn’t an option for many Americans, we can use this info to structure our workdays to make us more productive. Spend the morning on activities that require focus and vigilance, and save your chore-style work for later in the day.
Drink enough water
“Lack of water can cause you to experience periods of fatigue and low energy as your body tries to function without enough water,” writes Healthcare Associates of Texas. “If you’re constantly feeling sluggish and tired despite getting a quality night’s sleep, you may need to boost your water intake.”
You’ve probably heard of the 8×8 rule (drinking eight 8-oz glasses of water a day). Turns out, there’s very little evidence behind this widespread belief. Our instincts (a.k.a. feeling thirsty) work to let us know when we need to hydrate, but our bodies can often mistake thirst for hunger. So, if you’re feeling peckish and sluggish even after a healthy lunch, chances are you’re mildly dehydrated.
A good rule of thumb? Drink water consistently throughout the day, but don’t overthink it. If you’re not thirsty, you don’t need to drink!
As our blood sugar levels drop in the late afternoon, many of us reach for snacks and drinks with a high glycemic index to give us a quick boost. We all know the feeling: you reach for a sweet treat, feel great for a half hour, then crash land in a worse spot than we started. Resisting the urge to reach for soda, salty snacks, and sweets will not only help you maintain overall health, but it’ll also reduce your sluggishness in the short term.
Eat for energy
Instead of sugary sodas and snacks, try making yourself a fruit and spinach smoothie. Sugars from the fruit deliver the same energy boost as refined sugars, but without the crash. Spinach is high in oxygen-transporting iron and energy-producing magnesium, which will deliver your body sustained energy throughout the rest of your day. Combined with spinach, superstar fruits like pineapples, blueberries, mangoes, and strawberries make for a delicious, healthy, and energy-boosting snack.
Take a stretch break
As we often mention on the blog, stretching is the most important exercise you can do—especially if you work at a desk all day. We suggest taking stretch break every 1-2 hours during the workday to keep your body feeling good. After all, the 3 p.m. slump is often accompanied with stiff “tech neck.”
As advised to us by Dr. Kristi Corder of Family First Chiropractic, try what she calls the Turtle Stretch:
Stand up from your seat, relax your shoulders, and pull your head back (like a turtle pulling its head back into its shell). Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat for a total of three times.
You can also do gentle neck and shoulder rolls, and toe touches with your knees bent (this helps stretch the lower back rather than just your hamstrings).
Take a walk
Another important exercise for both general maintenance and getting a boost of energy: walking. Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute found that taking short breaks for physical exercise throughout the day helps boost energy and improve performance.
“In addition to the beneficial impact of physical activity on levels of energy and vigor, spreading out physical activity throughout the day improved mood, decreased feelings of fatigue and affected appetite,” write the study authors.
So talking a walk will help alleviate a ton of 3 p.m slump symptoms: hunger, fatigue, and inability to focus.
Featured image: @janellecasta