Symptoms and Cures of an Afternoon Slump

A man taking a power-nap at a desk.
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What Is Afternoon Slump?

Afternoon slump is a term used to describe the sleepy, tired and sluggish feeling that comes on in the afternoon, usually between the hours of 1 PM and 3 PM.

What Are the Symptoms of Afternoon Slump?

There are many different reasons people experience afternoon slump, but the symptoms are generally the same or very similar. Understanding what causes your afternoon run-down feeling is important in figuring out how to address it.

Symptoms often include a combination of the following:

  • Frequent yawning and/or feeling sleepy
  • Extreme fatigue or lethargy
  • Slight changes in vision
  • Tingling or feeling of muscle weakness
  • Moodiness (becoming irritable or short-tempered or depressed)
  • Falling asleep at your desk
  • Craving for carbohydrates
  • Headache or stomach ache

Serious afternoon slump is more than just feeling like the day is getting long and a nap would be nice. It is marked with a profound sense of tiredness or fatigue that makes it hard to focus and may be accompanied by an intense need to sleep.

What Causes Afternoon Slump?

There are four main causes of afternoon slump:

1. An underlying metabolic disorder such as:

2. Getting too little sleep on a regular basis;

3. Poor eating habits; and/or

4. High levels of stress.

Cures for Afternoon Slump

If you don't have a metabolic disorder, here are some simple ways to get over the afternoon slump hump:

  • Sit in the sun for 10 minutes. Even better, eat your lunch outside and divide your time between eating and taking a walk. You can reset your internal clock, reduce the amount of melatonin your body produces and boost your vitamin D.
  • Consume protein rather than carbs. Try tuna salad but skip the bread; sliced chicken instead of pasta, and a salad with an egg. Cutting out the carbs can make a difference in feeling an afternoon crash come on. 
  • Rub some peppermint oil on your hands. Rub your hands together and then pat your face. The scent of peppermint is a known to increase energy.
  • Eat a square of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is very healthy, unlike milk chocolate, with high levels of healthy fat and antioxidants it contains. It also provides a touch of caffeine to give you a boost.
  • Chew gum. Chewing gums with strong minty flavors like peppermint and spearmint are stimulating, and the act of chewing help the brain fight the feeling of lethargy.
  • Do isometric exercises. By tensing a muscle and holding it, you encourage blood flow. Try tensing your biceps, holding for 5 to 10 seconds, and then releasing. You can do the same with your calves, thighs, chest, stomach and glutes.
  • Put a rosemary plant in your office. The scent of rosemary is known to be energizing. Whenever you need a pick me up,  rub a sprig between your fingers to release the fragrance. You can also rub one on your hands, neck, and face.
  • Brush your teeth. Or try mouthwash. Doing something that activates your senses can wake you up.