- Afternoon drowsiness is a natural part of the human sleep cycle, which is driven by the circadian rhythm and sleep-wake homeostasis.
- The circadian rhythm is the body’s 24-hour cycle that can be influenced by external factors, while sleep-wake homeostasis is a biochemical system that tells the body when it needs sleep.
- The mid-day crash hits when sleep-wake homeostasis is pushing for sleep and the circadian rhythm has not caught up.
- To manage this exhaustion, try to get seven hours of sleep, eat a well-balanced lunch, drink plenty of water, and take short walks or stretches throughout the day.
In today’s corporate world, most employees are expected to be 100% focused and on task from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, with an unpaid break wedged in the middle that gives them just enough time to stuff their faces and get back to work.
Is this a realistic expectation? No – hence why many other countries acknowledge the need for a midday break at work (It’s considered a constitutional right in China).
Instead of refreshing with a quick cat nap, many American workers must trudge through what is deemed the “2:30 feeling,” pour their third cup of coffee, and continue to stare blankly into their computer screens.
sleep cycle naturally lulls us into a sleepy daze in the early afternoon,
according to The National Sleep Foundation
Also known as the sleep-wake cycle, the natural cycle is driven by two separate biological mechanisms – the circadian rhythm and sleep-wake homeostasis, or homeostatic sleep drive – that work together to balance your energy and notify your body when it’s feeling tired and awake.
The circadian rhythm is basically the body’s internal clock based on a 24-hour time period, and it considers external factors that can affect it, like the environmental light-dark cycle, reminding you how awake you normally feel at a certain time of day, every day.
Sleep-wake homeostasis is a sleep-inducing biochemical system that drives the body to sleep based on the amount of elapsed time since it last slept. These two processes work together to keep you awake when you should be awake, and asleep when you should be snoozing.
The imminent 2:30 feeling falls over cubicles across the globe partially because the homeostatic drive is pressing for sleep, based on the amount of sleep you got the night before, and the circadian rhythm has yet to catch up and remind your brain to stay alert – after all, it’s at work, and should be 100% productive at all times, remember?
So what’s the solution? If a 30-minute power nap is out of reach – and it is for most of us – master these tried and true tactics for staying energised at work all day long.
Get proper sleep
A no brainer, right? Apparently not – A 2013 study published by Gallup found that 40% of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep per night. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but putting some effort into getting to bed at a decent time will pay off in dividends. If you get at least seven hours, that homeostatic sleep drive is less likely to be bugging you when the clock hits 2:30 p.m.
Take a walk or stretch
Nothing gets the blood circulating like a little cardio. Sitting in one position for eight hours straight is not good for the body, so do it a little favour by taking a 10- to 15-minute walk after lunch, or set an alarm on your phone to take a five-minute stretch break with your co-workers a few times a day.
Eat foods that boost your energy
The post-lunch crash can be the result of an extra-full stomach or reactive hypoglycemia, where your blood sugar drops after eating, causing you to become tired, weak, and even lightheaded or anxious. To avoid this, make sure your lunches are well-balanced and pack some high-protein snacks such as almonds or hard-boiled eggs to give you a boost when you need it.
As hard as it might be, refrain from your first instinct of picking up the cup of joe and pour yourself a tall glass of water instead – you will thank yourself later. When you think you’ve had enough, drink more –research shows even slight dehydration can keep you from performing at your best.
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