You’re sitting at your desk in the middle of the afternoon and you find your attention wandering. You feel tired, you can’t focus, and all you want to do is go home--yes, it’s the dreaded afternoon slump.
Caused by a dip in body temperature, the afternoon slump is a common problem. It’s caused by a release of the sleep hormone melatonin, which is produced in much larger quantities just before we go to sleep at night. Melatonin tricks your body into thinking it’s time for a nap. However, you can’t just blame your body’s internal clock – what we eat also plays an important role.
A coffee or sugar-laden snack will give you an instant boost, but it’ll leave your energy levels flagging when your blood sugar crashes.
The trick to combatting the afternoon slump actually starts right at the beginning of the day – with what you eat for breakfast! Start the day with foods aimed at giving you a slow release of energy.
Starchy foods—carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and rice—will do this, particularly if you choose wholegrain. They’ll increase energy and focus and are also a good source of nutrients. Try toast with peanut butter and banana, or scrambled eggs on an English muffin.
If you’re in a hurry, cereal with semi-skimmed milk and a glass of juice will do the job. Cereals are a good source of iron, which can also protect you against feeling tired.
Avoid sugar wherever possible – it’ll increase your chances of a slump – and snack on nuts or fruit instead.
Don’t skip lunch! If you’re busy working, it can be tempting to think a quick salad is enough to keep you going, but it’s important to include protein and a source of carbohydrates, or you’ll feel tired very quickly. Add a boiled egg to your salad, or some slices of meat. Don’t be tempted to eat anything too fatty though – it’ll contribute to you feeling sluggish.
If you’re still feeling that post-lunch dip, raising your heart rate can give you an extra energy boost. Pop out for a brisk walk in the fresh air or, if you’ve got a staircase at work or at home, pace up and down. It’ll make you feel more alert.
If you think carefully about your diet and get out of your chair from time to time, you’ll be well on your way to beating the afternoon slump!