How to beat the 3pm slump

Hannah Nicholas
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Beat the 3pm slump. Image: Getty
To beat the 3pm slump you need to eat properly throughout the day, starting with a good breakfast.
Hannah Nicholas

Whether you're a mum on the run or an office worker chained to your desk, we all get hit by the 3pm slump now and then. Reaching for that chocolate bar or flat white, however, isn't the answer. Here are our tips for getting through a slump-free day.

Why the slump?
Wondering why you could fall asleep at your desk some days around 3pm? It's because our body clock or circadian rhythms dip at this time of day affecting our energy levels.

Afternoon slumps, involving sleepiness and a loss of concentration, often happen when you eat snacks and meals high in fat, salt, sugar and caffeine or because you've skipped meals and not provided your body with the right nutrients. Stress and a lack of sleep will also have an effect on your energy levels.

Aim for a low GI diet
To beat the 3pm slump you need to eat properly throughout the day, starting with a good breakfast. Aim for low-GI foods such as muesli, oats, fruit and wholegrain bread or cereal. Never skip breakfast. Doing so will create a big energy gap that you'll feel all day. Likewise, lunch should not be eaten on the run. Look for options with a balance of protein and low carbohydrates and take time out to properly enjoy the meal.

Snack right
It's okay to snack between meals as long as the snacks are nutritious and will help sustain your energy levels. Sugary and chocolate snacks may give you an initial high but come an hour later, you'll be back to feeling sluggish again. Great snack options include: fruit, nuts and seeds, cheese and crackers, low-fat yoghurt or fruit smoothies. Focusing on a healthy and low-GI diet will do wonders for keeping your energy levels balanced.

Cut down the caffeine
It's easy to fall into the habit of reaching for a coffee every time your body and mind need a boost but it's important not to become too reliant on caffeine including that contained in soft drinks, energy drinks and tea.

Consuming caffeine can increase alertness and your ability to focus on tasks but too much can cause problems of anxiety and agitation. As well as headaches, restlessness and disturbed sleep patterns.

Work out at lunchtime
Exercise is a great way to overcome a slump in your energy levels mid-afternoon. Try getting to the gym at lunchtime or simply going for a brisk walk. Just stepping out of your routine for 10 minutes and grabbing some fresh air will do wonders for your well-being. Of course, working out early in the morning will also set you up for the day.

Sleep well
A good night's sleep before your working day is also important. The more sleep deprived you are, the greater the afternoon slump. Interestingly research reveals the best way to overcome afternoon slumps is with a brief power nap (no longer than an hour). Unfortunately for most of us this isn't possible so be sure to get a good night's sleep as often as possible. For the average person seven to eight hours a night is ideal.

Learn to relax
It's important to take time out to look after yourself. Your health should always be your number-one priority. If you're not in top shape both mentally and physically, it will affect all areas of your life including your ability to get through the day. Find ways that relieve stress for you and take time out to do the things you love on a regular basis.

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