Crashing after Lunch? How to Get a Second Wind at Work.
The afternoon slump, the post-lunch dip, the siesta slouch, the teatime nosedive. Whatever you call it, it zaps your energy and your willpower to render your afternoons miserable.
What’s wrong with you? Nothing.
The after-lunch crash is natural. It results from a midday drop in core body temperature that releases melatonin (the sleep hormone), and it’s often made worse by common workday practices. Although natural, you can mitigate its effects to get a second wind. Here are some things to try.
Get a proper night’s sleep
An after-lunch crash is bad enough, but it’s made way worse by sleep debt. If you want any chance at a second wind, you’ll need a proper night’s rest.
How much sleep and when you should get it depend on your personal circadian rhythm. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults enjoy between seven and nine hours of a night. If possible, try to schedule your sleep to match your productive work hours, for example, whether you’re a morning person or a night owl.
Eat healthy, eat light
Heavy lunches bring your mental processing power to a screeching halt. That’s because large amounts of sodium, unhealthy fats, and simple carbs send a signal to your brain to focus on digestion, not thinking.
A healthier, lighter lunch will sate your hunger while keeping your brain fueled. Be sure to include complex carbs—those found in beans, vegetables, and whole grains—and a protein. Fats and sugars are fine, but they should come from natural sources like avocados and fruits, respectively.
Between-meal snacks are great, but forgo a vending-machine harvest of chips and candy. Try a nut-and-dried-fruit mix, whole-grain cereal and milk, or peanut butter on toast instead.
Tea or water, not coffee
To power through an afternoon, many of us reach for that sixth cup of coffee. Resist the urge. Large amounts of caffeine affect your system throughout the day, causing jitters and loss of sleep.
Water is your best option. Since dehydration causes fatigue, a bottle of water may help you stay focused better than a caffeine hit.
Looking for something more flavorful? Then switch your coffee for tea. An 8-ounce cup of coffee has anywhere from 80–100 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, while green or black tea sports a mere 35–50 mg. This means tea will give you a slight boost while helping you stay within the FDA’s caffeine recommendation (no more than 400 mg per day).
Your body associates stillness with sleep, and no, it doesn’t count keystrokes as exercise. The opposite is true too, so a little movement can perk you right up.
It doesn’t take much. A 15-minute walk can get your heart rate up. Bonus points if you walk outside on a sunny day as sunshine triggers the production of vitamin D, which improves both brain function and mood.
If you can’t get outside, have a stroll around the office or perform desk stretches. Any movement, other than keystrokes, will help.
Take a mental break
Like any muscle, the brain gets tried the more you work it. If you’ve been engaged in a cognitively demanding task all morning, chances are you’ll suffer an after-lunch crash. That’s your sign to take a break.
Consider a social visit in the break room or even a nap. Don’t sleep for too long, though. Waking from a deep stage of rest may make the crash worse. A good rule of thumb is to nap for 15–20 minutes, conveniently the same length as a solid break.
If you want to stay productive, switch to a less demanding task. Take the afternoon to clean your inbox, tidy up your work space, or prep a project that you’ll tackle tomorrow with a rested mind.
Beyond the after-lunch crash
After-lunch crashes happen. These doldrums not only harm your productivity and work quality but also your job satisfaction. The good news is you can get a second wind by following the tips above. Better still, these tips help produce a work-life balance that pays mental and physical health dividends beyond the workplace.