It happens to all of us. You’ve had a productive morning, break for lunch and then boom, it hits you. The dreaded mid-afternoon slump. Concentration becomes more difficult and keeping your eyes open becomes a task in itself. Whether you’re a student-athlete or not, a busy schedule can lead to daytime drowsiness that no one has time for.
What Is It?
Research done by The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School found that human beings feel tired at two times during each 24-hour period—2:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. -- when our core body temperatures drop, telling the brain to release melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy.
Pass the Coffee, Energy Drinks, ANYTHING!
Not so fast. I often tell student-athletes energy drinks are stimulants, not true energy. This goes for anyone. The truest form of energy is provided by calories. Caffeine may stimulate you, but it doesn’t provide true, long-lasting energy.
If you’re feeling tired you may not have enough real energy in your body, or on the flip side, you may potentially have consumed too much.
Fighting the 2:00 p.m. Crash
One major reason for that afternoon slump… the way you are eating. You may have had a large lunch filled with carbohydrates. Carbs increase serotonin levels in your brain, stimulating melatonin which makes you sleepy. If lunch was a big meal, you might be dragging because of all those hormones kicking up.
Choose a meal combined with fiber (only found in complex carbs) and protein. There’s no need to avoid carbs, but consume the fiber-rich ones. Your meal should contain fiber and protein to aid with the digestion process. Last, your meal should include some sort of fat. Yes, fats. Fats provided satiety, which tells your brain you’re being nourished.
Here are some good lunchtime options:
- Carbs: Brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, whole grains
- Fiber: Vegetables, beans, fruits
- Proteins: Fish and shellfish, grilled chicken, turkey burger, lean beef
Take a proactive stance and pack a snack for the afternoon. High protein snacks like nuts or trail mix will hit the spot.
Another reason you may be feeling lethargic in the afternoons … sleep. I talk with our athletes about their sleeping patterns. Quality and consistency are major factors into our energy levels. While the amount of sleep from person to person may differ, the quality and consistency of sleep remains important.
Follow these tips for a better night’s sleep:
- Be Consistent: Poor sleep can affect focus and decision making. Getting to bed every night around the same time and waking up around the same time every morning can lead to more energy.
- Change Sheets: At least once a week, change your sheets.
- Keep it Cool: Research shows the ideal temp is somewhere between 67-68 degrees cooler temperatures initiate and help keep you asleep.
- Quiet: Think of your sleeping space as a cave. Cool and quiet. A quiet room allows you to attain a deeper sleep for a longer period of time. Turning off your phone will also help.
I’m a believer in exercise combatting fatigue. Depending on what your workplace has to offer, take some time during the day to take a walk or climb the stairs. You don’t have to get in an intense workout, just something to get the blood flowing. Do this to stave off the slump or when you hit that 2 p.m. wall.
About the Author
Scott Sehnert is Auburn University's Sports Dietitian. He oversees sports nutrition needs for Auburn's 21 varsity sports. Sehnert is a Registered Dietitian (RD) with the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and is a member of the Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) dietetic practice group. Scott also holds certifications with the ADA as a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD), and with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He serves on the Board of Directors for the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA).