There comes a time in everyone’s day when the caffeine in your coffee wears off and the inevitable late afternoon crash happens. “There seems to be a natural rhythm or set clock in our bodies, so many people tend to feel a little sleepy around 2 or 3 in the afternoon,” says Lona Sandon, RD, MEd, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, to WebMD. Michael J. Breus, PhD and author of Beauty Sleep, adds that this slump has to do with a dip in your core body temperature, similar to what happens just before you go to sleep at night.
Since it’s not realistic to take a nap at the office and sleep off your slump, you could be making your mid-afternoon slump worse, depending on how you react to it. Here are three bad afternoon habits that you need to break — trust us, it’ll help you fight the midday slump!
1. You reach for sugar
It’s hard to blame your body’s internal clock for making you sleepy, but we can blame the way you choose to deal with it. And that starts with breakfast. Skipping this important meal of the day can lead to an afternoon energy crash. “Often, people don’t fuel their bodies well enough when they start the day,” Sandon tells WebMD. Alan Aragon, M.S., a nutritionist in Westlake Village, California, tells Men’s Health that “About three eggs, a piece of fruit, and a small bowl of oatmeal is a good mix of protein and carbohydrates” to start your day off right.
When that afternoon slump hits, instead of reaching for a sugary soda or candy from your office vending machine, reach for an apple or banana with some peanut butter or a small pack of trail mix for energy.
2. You’re not moving
It’s common knowledge that sitting on your behind all day can be just as bad as smoking. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and reported by CBS News, an overall analysis of previous research finds that sitting for long periods of time increases your risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and early death even in people who exercise regularly. The study found that your health is most affected if you sit for eight to nine hours a day. And those who didn’t exercise at all have a 40% risk of early death. Additionally, the study found that sitting for prolonged periods raises your risk of cardiovascular disease by 14%, cancer by 13%, and diabetes by 91%.
In addition, sitting for long periods of time in one position can be enough to make your energy levels crash, New York City internist Erika Schwartz, M.D., who specializes in fatigue, said to Redbook. This, she says, is because your body equates stillness with going to sleep and if you’re staring at your computer screen, it causes your eyes to strain, which can also put you in the mood to go to sleep.
This means that you need to get up and start moving when you find yourself dozing. Take a 10-minute break to rev up your body. Walking around the office, chatting with co-workers, or taking a break to enjoy some fresh air can recharge you. Simply standing up and stretching can give you an energy boost.
3. You don’t keep up with your to-do list
It’s important to stick to a to-do list, so you can keep track of everything you need to accomplish for the day. A LinkedIn survey revealed that our professional to-do lists are in need a makeover because we’re not doing a good job of getting everything we need to get done, done. While everyone tackles their tasks differently, checking on your list by early- or mid-afternoon can help you make sure you’re where you need to be, says Anita Attridge, a career and executive coach with the Five O’Clock Club, a career coaching organization, to Forbes. “If you aren’t satisfied with where you are, plan what you need to do and when you will do it so you don’t get further behind.” If you can get some tasks finished before you leave for the day, it will save you the trouble of having to rush to finish it the next morning.
Another tip: Tackle one of your big or medium tasks first thing in the morning before your slump hits, advises writer Alex Cavoulacos of The Muse. The rest of your day is sure to be easier, especially when you start to crash and a hard task sounds insurmountable.