Author: Jenny Carson is a Nutritional Practitioner and Technical Services Manager at Viridian Nutrition. She holds a BSc honours degree in Nutritional Science and is a Master of Research (MRes) in Public Health.
Feeling sluggish or sleepy in the afternoon? Finding yourself frequently yawning or mood affected between 2pm to 3pm? If this sounds familiar, then you could benefit from our handy nutritional and lifestyle tips to get you through the day. There are many reasons as to why people experience the afternoon slump and it’s important to address this.
Why am I tired in the afternoon?
Even following a good night of sleep the afternoon dip in energy can occur. It can be frustrating to feel so tired which can leave you wondering why you feel this way and what should you do to resolve it.
Often lifestyle factors are at play but also in primitive times we would be poly sleepers whereby humans would have 2 or 3 sleeps in a 24-hour period. In warmer climates people will often take a siesta to replete their energy for the afternoon. However, working 9-5, running around after a family and maintaining a home can leave little time for more than one sleep daily.
Let’s look at the common culprits for the afternoon slump, can you relate to any of the points?
- Energy or lack thereof is directly impacted by diet. Moreover, the type and frequency of foods that are eaten. Poor blood sugar balance is caused by the roller coaster of sharp elevations and dips in blood glucose. This can be caused by a that is rich in simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, white bread, white rice or white pasta, skipping meals or eating a meal that has no carbohydrates at all.
- Poor sleep. On average we need 7-9 hours of sleep each night, but many of us are operating on far fewer hours. Poor sleep can contribute to daytime sleepiness and our brain may want a nap in the early afternoon.
- Dehydration is known by the sporting community to decrease performance and the same can happen during the daily routine. Hydration includes drinking water, but it is also reliant on minerals to maintain a balance in fluid, these minerals are often called electrolytes.
- Other lifestyle factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake and a sedentary lifestyle can induce daytime sleepiness.
Ways to U-turn the slump into energy
Now that we have identified the causes of daytime sleepiness, we will look at solutions to improve energy levels.
The lunchtime meal should provide a variety of different coloured wholefoods. Wholefoods are unprocessed and eaten in their entirety. For example, roast root vegetables and spiced tofu or scrambled eggs with spinach, tomatoes and sweet potato. The natural carbohydrate sources from the root vegetables and potato in this example, will release their energy in a slow fashion, therefore peaks and troughs in blood glucose are balanced to allow a steady balance in energy that lasts the whole afternoon.
A lunchtime walk is re-energising and can help to manage stress. Getting outdoors and enjoying some sunshine exposure has a beneficial effect on the hormones that regulate the human sleep-wake cycle. In fact, experts say starting the day with some outdoor time is essential for health, manage stress and energy levels.
After your morning coffee, all other drinks should be plain water, water with added electrolyte minerals or herbal teas which are hydrating. Sugar laden drinks can cause an imbalance in blood glucose and mess with energy levels, while caffeine drunk later in the day can affect overstimulate the central nervous system and lead to a mid-afternoon energy crash and affect sleep.
If daytime sleepiness is prolonged and you have improved your lifestyle for sleep, it may be that your diet does not provide enough of the nutrients that support energy production and sleep. It may be useful to address this with magnesium and a B complex. Furthermore, those that like to use herbs may find Ashwagandha useful each evening.
On the whole, increasing complex carbohydrates such as sweet potato, root vegetables, whole grains and fruit while reducing simple carbohydrate food sources such as sugar, white rice, white bread and white pasta will help to balance energy and regulate blood glucose levels.
On top of this drinking water or electrolyte infused water will help to support hydration.
Besides a lunchtime walk with or without a nap and finally some targeted supplementation should help you U-turn out of the slump and into an energised afternoon.
The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.