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How to Power Through the Afternoon Slump

Strategies to overcome midday tiredness.

Christopher Lemercier/Unsplash
Source: Christopher Lemercier/Unsplash

When faced with midday fatigue, many people’s first instinct is to reach for an extra cup of coffee or tea. But did you know that there are ways to get through your afternoon slump without the help of caffeine? It might be a little tricky for some, but there are actually a lot of ways to power through midday tiredness without the aid of an extra pick-me-up.

I recently talked about things you can do to get through the slump, but here are a few more ways to power through:

  • Chew gum: A study in Nutritional Neuroscience found that chewing gum improves alertness, increased happiness, and improved reaction time when compared to participants who did not chew gum.
  • Adjust your posture: The afternoon slump can be worse if you also slump. Good posture can help boost your stamina, reduce stress, as well as make you more productive.
  • Look at pictures of cute animals: Yes, really. According to a study from Hiroshima University, looking at cute images at work can improve your mood and boost your productivity. Just be careful not to get too distracted looking at them!
  • Listen to music: The right tunes can get you fired up. To boost your alertness, memory, focus, and mood, listen to upbeat and energetic music. Instrumental music can help build your focus even further since you won’t be thinking about the lyrics as you work.
  • Get some sun: Light is medicine, and a little sunlight can brighten your mood and boost your energy. Even if you don’t have a lot of time or opportunities to get some sun during the day, a few minutes can make a major difference in your energy levels.
  • Use caffeine—but do it properly: I know, I know, this is an article about not using caffeine—but if you are going to use it anyway, there is a way to do so properly.

However, like many conditions, prevention is the best cure. It is possible to prevent your afternoon slump, but it may not be easy.

How to Prevent Your Afternoon Slump

Your afternoon slump can make getting through the day feel like a difficult task, especially if you’re already struggling with sleep deprivation. This can make consuming another cup of coffee or tea especially tempting. However, a great way to prevent that tiredness in the first place is simply to get enough sleep.

Unfortunately, though, this is easier said than done for millions of Americans. However, there are a few simple ways you can improve your sleep quality while helping yourself to prevent your next afternoon slump.

  • Follow a consistent bedtime schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time every morning.
  • If you need to hit the snooze button in the morning, only do it once and don’t linger in bed. This helps prevent morning grogginess—also known as sleep inertia.
  • Get tested for sleep disorders. Many people who struggle to get a good night’s sleep have an undiagnosed sleep disorder, such as insomnia, circadian rhythm disorders, or sleep apnea.
  • Dedicate time in the evening to your sleep hygiene. This means giving yourself enough time to finish your day’s to-do list, practice some relaxation techniques, and prepare for bed.
  • Exercise! Physical activity is important to not only your physical health, and your mental health, but to your sleep health too.

Your work performance and sleep are connected—if you take care of one, then you’re taking care of the other. Unfortunately, poor sleep can have a profound effect on your work performance even beyond the sleepiness you feel in the middle of each day.

Most of us enjoy a cup of coffee, tea, or even an occasional soda. And remember, it’s normal to feel a little tired at midday—but if you find that you’re constantly dragging your feet and relying on extra caffeine to get through the day, then it’s a good idea to make some positive changes in your life.

Your sleep and your work performance will thank you.

More from Michael J. Breus Ph.D.
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