by Erica Garza
Many of us are familiar with that feeling we get somewhere between coming back from lunch and leaving the office, when the emails keep stacking up and our focus has gone out the window. Afternoon slumps consist of brain fog, serious drowsiness and an urge to keep checking the clock — or opening Instagram over and over again — often in hopes that it will somehow speed time along. Before you fake sickness and head home or attempt to sneak a nap under your desk (unless your company offers a nap room), here’s everything you need to know about why afternoon slumps occur, some tips to help you avoid them and how to recover quickly if you’re already in the middle of one.
Why Do Afternoon Slumps Happen?
The National Sleep Foundation explains that mid-afternoon sleepiness can be due to a number of factors, including:
Eating a Carbohydrate-Heavy Lunch
If you get tired after eating, it’s most likely due to simple carbs like white breads, white rice, pastas or chips. This is because simple carbs, opposed to whole grains, cause a rapid spike in blood sugar, followed by a dramatic drop that can leave you feeling lethargic and cranky.
Sitting Still for Too Long
Most office jobs require a lot of sitting. In fact, the average U.S. adult sits 6.5 hours a day. When those hours happen in a long stretch, it can trick you into wanting to go to sleep, as the body associates stillness with sleep.
Mild dehydration can make you feel tired, with as little as a loss of 1.5 percent of your body’s water weight contributing to sluggishness. Yet, 77 percent of working Americans admit that they don’t drink enough water.
A Drop in Body Temperature
An afternoon slump can also occur from a dip in body temperature, which naturally happens between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. This dip prompts your body to release the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, leaving you fighting to keep your eyes open at your desk.
How to Stop Brain Fog in Its Tracks
The easiest way to battle brain fog is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Actually pulling that off is all about setting yourself up with a few tools that will help keep you feeling focused and energized (without the inevitable crash of your 1 pm cup of coffee). Here are a few of our top tips:
- Eat an energizing lunch. Replace simple carbs with complex carbs for lunch, such as whole grain pasta, whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, potatoes and beans.
- Move your body. Install an app on your computer or phone (or set a timer) that will remind you to periodically get up from your desk and move your body. When it’s sunny out, take walks outside, which can combat that dip in body temperature, too.
- Hydrate. BYOB (of water) to work and keep it accessible for sipping throughout the day. You can also eat fruit to increase water intake.
- Optimize your wellness. Take natural energy supplements like FOCL Day, which includes CBD for energy, as well as brain-boosting botanicals like Rhodiola Rosea and Lion’s Mane. Simply take two capsules in the morning and ride the energy wave all day.
How To Deal If You’re in the Middle of an Afternoon Slump
If the brain fog has already taken your motivation hostage, don’t panic. Here are some action steps you can take in the middle of an afternoon slump to recover quickly:
- Stretch it out.Perform some energizing stretches at work (or head to a late-afternoon yoga class if you can get out of the office for a while).
- Get some air. Take a brisk walk outside, and bring your headphones to listen to some upbeat music.
- Have a laugh. Get in some LOLs to boost feel-good chemicals in your brain that will rev you up. Watch a funny clip on YouTube or have a quick chat with your funniest colleague.
- Sneak in some sleep. And if you do happen to have a nap pod in your office, or your home is close enough for a mid-afternoon snooze, take a nap. Just be sure to check with your boss first.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist. Her work has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, The Telegraph and VICE. She lives in Los Angeles.