5 Tips for Managing Your Afternoon Slump (Without Candy or Coffee)

Do you struggle with afternoon sugar cravings?

Many of my clients do.

Around 2:00-3:00 p.m., their eyelids grow heavy, their concentration nosedives, and cookies start calling to them.

Sugar is often their instant solution for boosting their energy. Yet, as most of us have discovered, this short-term fix quickly causes us to crash and crave more sugar.

Caving into your 3:00 p.m. cravings has nothing to do with a lack of willpower.

It’s completely natural to feel sleepy in the afternoon. And it’s completely understandable to seek a quick pick-me-up in the form of sugar—or caffeine, or both.

Programmed for Sleepiness
Your internal body clock produces circadian rhythms, including your sleep/wake cycle. This cycle rises and dips over a 24-hour period, with the strongest sleep drives occurring between 2:00-4:00 a.m. and 1:00-3:00 p.m.*

While there are many reasons why you might crave sugar in the afternoon (e.g., boredom, salt intake), this natural energy dip is certainly one of them.

How to Manage Your Slump
Here are five ways to manage your low energy and recharge without reaching for the candy bowl, cookie jar, cola can or coffee machine.

  1. Get enough sleep. When you’re sleep deprived, you will experience bigger swings of sleepiness and wakefulness—and bigger sugar and carb cravings.
     
  2. Take a catnap. A siesta is the best way to honor your body’s natural rhythm, so take a 15- to 20-minute nap if possible. Research shows that doing so can reduce stress, improve alertness and productivity, decrease blood pressure, and more.
     
  3. Eat a protein-rich lunch. If I eat a carb-heavy lunch (e.g., bread, pasta), I might as well take a sleeping pill.

    I perform best when my midday meal is composed of lean protein, healthy fats and unrefined fiber (e.g., wild salmon with avocado and veggies).

    Like me, you may find this combo gives you steady blood sugar levels, sharper mental focus, a stable mood and longer lasting energy. Experiment to discover what ratio works best for you.
     
  4. Get off your rump. Sitting and staring at a screen for hours on end is a surefire way to exacerbate your afternoon slump.

    To perk up, head outside for a 15-minute walk. The movement, sunshine and fresh air will help restore your energy.
    If a walk outdoors isn’t feasible, cruise around your office building, stand while talking on the phone, or do some stretches, jumping jacks or push-ups.
     
  5. Drink up. Your afternoon slump will feel more intense if you’re dehydrated. Instead of turning to an energy drink, go for a rejuvenating glass of water. 

Despite all these tips, sometimes a bit of sugar or hit of caffeine will be exactly what you need.

What's most important is that you listen to and honor your body's wisdom. Ask yourself: In this moment, what does my body truly need to feel restored at the deepest level?

*Source: National Sleep Foundation