Many people hit an energy slump in the afternoon that leaves them feeling sluggish. Often, their remedy is to reach for caffeinated drinks such as coffee or soda. These may offer short-term peaks in energy, but don’t fix the cause. Afternoon fatigue is commonly caused by poor sleep, improper diet, lack of exercise, dehydration, medications or hormonal imbalances.
Not getting enough sleep is one of the most common causes of afternoon fatigue. Going to bed too late, getting interrupted by a pet or baby at night, or sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress can all lead to restless sleep. To help gauge whether sleep is the problem, keeping a diary to document sleep habits can help a person discover patterns that are detrimental to a restful night.
People who experience anxiety throughout the day can also feel the effects at night. Tossing and turning during sleep can result from anxiety and often decrease the restful effect of sleep. Getting into a routine that relaxes the mind before bed, such as yoga or light reading, can help ensure peaceful sleep.
Diet and nutrition are also important factors in the equation. Eating a large meal at lunch can be a contributor to sluggishness. The body diverts blood from the brain to the intestines in order to digest a large meal. This can cause the energy slump many feel in the afternoon. A solution would be to eat smaller meals at lunch.
The types of food consumed at lunch are also important. Adding more protein and reducing carbohydrate intake, especially simple carbohydrates such as white bread, will help to stave off afternoon fatigue. Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly and cause a spike in blood sugar levels. This spike can initially raise energy levels, but a crash is inevitable one to two hours after consumption. These types of carbohydrates also contain refined sugar and very few essential vitamins and minerals.
Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, take longer to digest. This helps control blood sugar levels throughout the day. They also contain fiber, vitamins and minerals. Examples of complex carbohydrates include vegetables, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice.
Liquids consumed during the day can also factor into afternoon fatigue. Not drinking enough water can cause dehydration and result in low energy levels. This can be remedied by drinking eight glasses of water per day and avoiding diuretics, such as coffee, that expel water from the body.
Getting exercise can help elevate energy levels throughout the day. Many people, especially office workers, spend eight hours or more per day sitting in front of a computer, often resulting in poor circulation. Incorporating exercise into their daily routines would not only help with circulation but also keep energy levels steady throughout the day. Taking a brisk 10-minute walk after lunch can help reinvigorate the body and mind.
Medications can play a role in afternoon fatigue. People experiencing this should look at the medications they are taking. Certain drugs such as antihistamines, pain pills, blood pressure prescriptions and anti-anxiety medications can have fatigue as a side effect. Medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism and anemia may also contribute to low energy levels.