This is super common and happens for a variety of reasons, the most frequent being what you ate (or didn’t eat) at lunch, lack of sleep and fatigue. Also, your body’s natural circadian rhythm (your body clock) releases the sleepy hormone melatonin between 2-4pm. While hugely inconvenient, this suggests we humans are actually designed to want a nap around this time, all of which contributes to a massive feeling of ‘meh’ around 3pm. Here’s how beat it:
Don’t have a carb-heavy lunch. White breads, pastas, potatoes and chips (simple carbs, not made from whole grains), cause a spike in blood sugar followed by a dramatic drop. This is why wolfing a giant jacket potato can leave you feeling slow and drowsy mid-afternoon. Having complex carbs instead – wholewheat bread, brown rice, wholegrain pasta – with things like nuts, salmon, yoghurt, spinach, sweet potatoes and seeds should provide you with more energy to last the afternoon.
Equally, don’t skip lunch. We get more grouchy, tired and exhausted the hungrier we are. Getting hangry is very real. Listen to your body. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re bloated and sluggish, change what you’re eating. We often ignore what our bodies are telling us through routine or because of stress.
Leave your desk. Have a walk. There is evidence that short regular breaks are more beneficial than long less-regular breaks. So start scheduling in five minute wanders every hour. Stretch your limbs and get a change of scenery, giving your mind and body a time-out. If you can, pop outside. Daylight is the natural antidote to sleepiness, reducing the melatonin in your system so you feel more awake.
Sitting down for eight hours a day simply isn’t good for you, so it might be worth considering using a standing desk. Standing gives an impression of urgency and so makes your body feel more energised, improving your concentration. If your company is up for it, ask to give one a try in the office.
Listen to energetic, uplifting music. Whether you’re into Slipknot or Sade, music can completely change your mood and, in so doing, make you feel more awake.
If you can, sneak off somewhere and try to grab a 20-minute nap, which has been proven more beneficial than sleeping for an extra 20 minutes in the morning. It refreshes the brain, increases performance and gets rid of that sluggish feeling.
Look into improving your sleep routines at night. There are lots of books that will help combat insomnia and disrupted or irregular sleep (including mine, This Book Will Make You Sleep. Sound the self-promotion klaxon). Sleeping well at night relieves stress, improves concentration and boosts energy levels. It’s too big a subject to go into here, but how well you sleep at night can end up dictating your day. Being proactive about looking into it will make sleeplessness feel less all-consuming.