How to fight the midafternoon slump

“To reenergize, take a morning walk or a stroll outside in the late afternoon sun,” says Dr. Joseph Fanelli, with Community Healthcare System Behavioral Health Clinical Nurse Specialist Anna Bower.

It's the middle of the afternoon, and it starts to set in.

You become a little sleepy, your energy has started to dropped, and you're having trouble concentrating.

It's the dreaded midafternoon slump.

If you've ever suffered from it, you're not alone, and there are ways to beat it.

Being active can help, said Dale Batz, a clinical dietitian at Franciscan Health hospital in Dyer.

At work, many people sit for long periods of time, which can contribute to the feeling of wanting to take a nap.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, that happens “because your body associates stillness with going to sleep.”

Batz encouraged people to stand more often on the job. The use of adjustable, sit/stand desks can help people get out of their chairs while continuing to work, he said.

“These sedentary jobs that many of us have contribute to our workday sluggishness,” Batz said. “The body wants to move, and we’re healthier when it does.”

Dr. Joseph Fanelli agrees that it's important to stay active and get away from your desk to get through the midafternoon slump.

“To reenergize, take a morning walk or a stroll outside in the late afternoon sun,” said Fanelli, a psychiatrist with Behavioral Health Services of Community Healthcare System, an adult and older-adult inpatient and outpatient treatment facility at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago.

If you can't walk away from your desk or stand up while working, listening to upbeat music can help fight off sluggishness, the National Sleep Foundation recommends.

A lack of activity isn't the only cause of a midafternoon slump.

Fanelli said body temperature and cortisol levels play a big role in keeping people alert.

Both naturally decrease in the afternoon, contributing to the heavy eyelids and sleepiness at that time of the day.

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“It’s part of our human condition, and goes all the way back to the evolution of man and their daytime hunting quests to survive,” Fanelli said.

What you eat can sap your energy in the afternoon.

Batz said that can start at breakfast, either by skipping the meal or choosing low-protein foods too high in fat and sugar.

“Over half of the patients we see in the clinic skip breakfast,” he said.

Batz recommends eating a meal with protein as soon as possible after getting out of bed.

“Try for 30 grams within one to two hours of waking up,” he said. Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are among the foods that will fill the bill.

Fanelli illustrates the need for high-protein foods with the story of a bus driver for one of the Big 10 universities who took athletes at the school to their practices and games. The driver made sure to bring high-protein snacks to munch on during the trips to stay alert.

Batz said what people eat for lunch and dinner also can affect their performance throughout the day.

He advises people have 25 grams of quality protein at those meals — think chicken and tuna, among others — with side dishes high in fiber.

Avoiding concentrated sweets, white bread products, potatoes and white rice/noodles also can increase energy.

Staying well-hydrated is important.

The National Sleep Foundation indicates mild dehydration can cause people to lose energy. It's recommended to always have water around to drink throughout the day.

Some may turn to caffeinated drinks to fight the slump. Fanelli said coffee can help when feeling tired, but caffeine should be consumed in moderation because too much at once can have the reverse effect.

The midafternoon slump can be worse for people suffering from depression or anxiety, Fanelli said.

He said people can feel mentally and physically exhausted by stress because it can deplete the brain of resources. A behavioral health services professional can help if symptoms persist or become worse.

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