Your day started off pretty well. You had an early morning coffee and a healthy breakfast before smashing through unfinished projects and meetings. You’ve been super-productive all morning. But then, just like clockwork, you’re overcome with a wave of fatigue and all of a sudden it seems impossible to fight the urge to curl up under your desk and have a snooze.
The 3:30pm struggle is real and completely normal. Partly to blame for this afternoon slump is our circadian rhythm (body clock), which affects our sleep patterns. According to the Sleep Health Foundation, our bodies feel most sleepy at night as well as between 2pm-3pm. Other factors such as hydration levels, diet and exercise, as well as screen time can also affect the energy lull.
Unlike the Italians or Spanish, most of us can’t afford to cave in to our body clocks and take a siesta around this time. Here’s how you can trick your biology to combat fatigue and breeze through the afternoon.
Turn up the music
Research suggests that music helps boost creativity, especially during the performance of repetitive tasks. A study by the University of Toronto also shows upbeat music can raise your energy levels. What’s more, the study suggests that your energy is further boosted if you know already the songs.
The 3:30pm struggle is real and completely normal.
Avoid a heavy lunch
After a big meal, your body’s rest and digest response is triggered and blood is diverted away from the brain in aid of digestion. Instead of a heavy lunch containing pasta or fries, opt for complex carbs and protein such as a wholemeal chicken sandwich for prolonged energy or quinoa salad packed with leafy greens for improved brain function. A study by the Oxford University shows the B vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid found in vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach work to reduce brain atrophy and improve brain function.
Be snack smart
Having a smaller lunch followed up by a mid-afternoon snack can help combat the energy dip. Resist the urge to visit the vending machine and load up on chips or processed sweets. A handful of almonds or vegetables with hummus are great sources of fibre which helps you feel full for longer and keeps your blood sugar steady. If you’re after something sweet, an apple with peanut butter will help satisfy those sugar cravings. Apples are low in kilojoules and just 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contains 8grams of protein, as well as good fats to help you stay fuller for longer.
Take a screen break
It’s easy to lose track of how much time you’re spending looking at a screen at work. Prolonged screen time can cause eyestrain, while sitting at a desk all day also has negative impacts on your circulation. Taking regular breaks from the computer and getting up for a walk around the office allows your eyes to rest as well as boost circulation and stimulate the mind. Better yet, take it outside. An Environmental Science and Technology study found people felt more energetic and were in better moods after taking a walk outside.
A study by the Oxford University shows the B vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid found in vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach work to reduce brain atrophy and improve brain function.
Exercise during lunchtime
Working out at lunchtime can be just the lift you need to get through the rest of the work day as it increases blood flow to the brain and sharpen your focus. The endorphins released following exercise will also boost your mood in the afternoons.
Chew gum (seriously)
A study carried out by Cardiff University shows chewing gum can help improve alertness and intellectual performance by increasing blood flow to the brain.
Switch it up
If you’ve been working on the same project for hours, it’s time to give your brain a break so you can return to the task at hand with a clear mind. Step away from that spreadsheet and perform some stretches. Stretching throughout the day can improve productivity as it increases blood flow and relieves muscle aches and tension.