What Is the Afternoon Slump? (With Methods to Overcome It)

Updated August 10, 2023

Many people experience a decrease in productivity after lunch as afternoon exhaustion sets in. Recognizing and taking steps to overcome this feeling can increase your productivity and make work activities more enjoyable. Understanding what causes fatigue in the afternoon and strategies to reduce its effects can help you overcome it and keep your workday efficient. In this article, we explain what the afternoon slump is, list the causes of workplace fatigue, and offer methods to help you overcome it.

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What is the afternoon slump?

The afternoon slump is a period of the day in which a person loses their energy and motivation. This typically occurs between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and often involves feelings of tiredness and difficulty focusing. Here are the common symptoms of afternoon fatigue:

  • Suddenly feeling tired or lethargic: Fatigue is the most common symptom of afternoon exhaustion. This sudden feeling of tiredness can make it difficult to focus and remain motivated to complete a task.

  • Muscle weakness: Afternoon fatigue may cause muscle tingling or weakness, which can make it challenging for you to perform your work duties. Sitting or standing in one position for long periods of time can cause you to experience issues with your muscles in the afternoon.

  • Frequent yawning: This symptom is typically a result of poor sleep or afternoon fatigue. If you're yawning constantly, you might be experiencing workplace exhaustion, which can have negative effects on your productivity.

  • Mood changes: Being irritable or feeling down in the afternoon can indicate you're experiencing a slump. You can use the methods of overcoming fatigue to reduce anger, frustration, or moodiness, which can improve your work relationships and help with productivity.

  • Body aches: Exhaustion can trigger stomachaches, headaches, or migraines in some people. It's important to prioritize sleep and stay hydrated to ensure your exhaustion doesn't contribute to fatigue-related body aches.

  • Cravings: Some people dealing with fatigue experience cravings for high-fat, calorie-dense, or sugary foods to help them overcome their exhaustion. Eating a sugary drink or snack can help you regain temporary energy, but the crash that follows might cause further fatigue.

  • Difficulty with your vision: Some people experience blurred vision or sensitivity to light when they experience afternoon fatigue. This may cause your eyes to twitch or spasm, which can affect your ability to focus or complete tasks.

Read more: What to Do If You're Always Tired at Work (With Tips)

What causes afternoon fatigue?

Afternoon fatigue is a result body's circadian rhythms, which are 24-hour cycles that regulate daily behavioural patterns. They influence and induce states such as sleepiness and hunger to help people naturally know when it's time for each. This natural response causes most people to feel sleepy at night and can also affect their alertness in the afternoon. Aside from your circadian rhythms, here are other lifestyle factors that can also contribute to feeling fatigued in the afternoon:

  • not getting enough sleep the night before

  • a carbohydrate-heavy diet

  • dehydration

  • high levels of stress

  • an underlying health condition

Related: What Is Worker's Productivity? (And How to Improve It)

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Methods of overcoming the afternoon slump

Here are some methods you might consider to help you overcome fatigue in the afternoon:

Move your body

Engaging in physical activity can help you increase your alertness and energy levels, especially for jobs that involve significant inactivity, such as an office job. For example, you can take time between tasks to go for a jog or perform a light workout. If your workday doesn't allow for this, you can achieve a similar effect by taking a five-minute walk or standing up to stretch your arms and legs.

Consider researching desk and office yoga exercises to incorporate into your work routine to increase your movement throughout the day. You might also get a standing desk to help increase your movement and encourage you to change positions more frequently throughout the day.

Related: Mental Health Days: Definition, Importance, and How To

Get outside in the sun

Sitting in the sun for a few minutes tells the body that it's not time to sleep and can increase wakefulness. This also boosts vitamin D production, with benefits ranging from healthier bones to a stronger immune system. Consider eating your lunch outside or sitting near a window to gain additional energy to fight afternoon fatigue.

Add more protein to your lunch

Eating a carbohydrate-heavy lunch can increase serotonin, which calms the body and can contribute to daytime fatigue. It's important to consume a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains, and fibre to increase energy levels. Consider adding more protein and vegetables to your lunch to increase alertness and attention span. It might also be helpful to eat smaller portions to help increase energy levels. You can do this by reserving some lunch food for a mid-afternoon snack.

Related: 175 Creative Lunch Ideas for Work (With Factors to Consider)

Eat a healthy breakfast

Begin your day with a nutritious breakfast to boost your energy for the entire day. Consuming balanced nutrients can help maintain energy levels to keep you from consuming high-carbohydrate snacks, which can cause feelings of lethargy or exhaustion. Consider also minimizing your caffeine intake in the morning to avoid a steep afternoon decrease in energy levels.

Track and monitor your productivity

When you experience afternoon exhaustion, it can be challenging to maintain productivity levels. Consider setting goals for the afternoon and prioritizing your task list before breaking for lunch to help you focus on what you want to accomplish in the afternoon. You can use productivity apps or a simple checklist to help manage your tasks and time. This can help you complete your list and combat afternoon fatigue by working toward specific goals and optimizing your focus.

Related: 14 Best Productivity Tools to Boost Workplace Productivity

Establish healthy sleep patterns

Since the primary cause of afternoon exhaustion is not getting enough sleep, it's important to establish healthy sleep patterns. Poor sleep can disrupt your body's natural circadian rhythms and exacerbate afternoon fatigue. Consider setting an alarm on your phone to remind you when it's time to prepare for sleep and aim at getting into bed at the same time each night. It can also be helpful to limit your screen time before bedtime to further prepare your body for sleep.

Related: 7 Habits for Successful People (Importance and Tips)

Listen to music

Listening to your favourite upbeat music can help you gain energy and avoid afternoon fatigue. If your job accommodates it, consider listening to quiet music while you work or using headphones to improve your mood and attention. Create a playlist of familiar songs to help you complete repetitive tasks and an instrumental playlist to increase performance and focus when working on more complex tasks. If you don't have time to create a playlist, you can research online playlists for deep focus, concentration, or productivity.

Use the afternoon for collaborative work

Afternoon fatigue may be more challenging to combat when you perform solitary work activities, such as writing a long document or reviewing a significant amount of research. Conversely, team activities have the opposite effect of boosting energy and improving concentration. Increasing the variety of tasks throughout your day can also make time appear to pass more quickly, which can help you return to your solitary tasks with more energy. Consider scheduling tasks that can help boost concentration for the afternoon and tasks that require more focus for the morning.

Related: Promoting Collaboration in the Workplace: All You Need to Know

Stay hydrated

It's common for dehydration to cause afternoon fatigue, so it's important to keep hydrated to combat exhaustion. You can keep a water bottle nearby and drink from it regularly throughout the day. If you struggle with water consumption, consider making goals for yourself or setting alarms for benchmarks on the amount of water to drink at specific times of the day.

Reduce your sugar intake

Consuming sugar can offer a short-term energy boost, but it eventually fades and leaves you with less energy than you had before. Consider swapping your sugary drink or snack with a protein-based food like nuts or a small piece of cheese to avoid this energy crash. If you have a sugar craving, you can eat a small piece of dark chocolate, as it contains healthy fats and antioxidants and only a small amount of sugar.

Related: 8 Important Wellness Activities to Include at the Workplace

Reduce your alcohol consumption

Consuming alcohol can impact your sleep quality and reduce energy levels. During the workweek, it's helpful to minimize alcohol consumption at night to ensure you're well-rested for the workday. If you drink alcohol on weeknights, it's best to limit your consumption to one or two drinks at a time to avoid afternoon fatigue the next day.

Related: 8 Essential Tips on How to Keep Working When Unmotivated

Practise meditation

Engaging in meditation can help you achieve mental clarity when you're feeling tired or stressed. Even if you only have a short amount of time, it can be helpful to find a quiet place to sit and focus on your breathing. Alternatively, you can try using a meditation app or website while at your desk to help you practice meditation to increase your energy.

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