Afternoon got you down? Try our five fatigue-fighting solutions to help you get through with enthusiasm.
Find yourself struggling to stay awake in the afternoon? You're not alone. For many people, getting past midday drowsiness is a daily battle ? one that demands a cup of coffee, a stroll around the block or even a handful of M&M's. "Your circadian rhythm, or your body's natural clock, slows down in the afternoon, making you feel sleepy," explains Joyce A. Walsleben, PhD, director of New York University's Sleep Disorders Center. And tiredness only intensifies if you didn't sleep enough the night before, or had a lunch that was especially high in calories, adds Cindy Moore, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to overcome your midday slump. Try these strategies:
- Get caffeinated. Caffeine is an effective (and safe) way to wake yourself up ? if you don't use it all the time, says Moore. "People who have several cups of coffee or sodas a day become immune to the stimulant," she explains, adding that you should limit your afternoon intake to a 125 mg serving (approximately one eight-ounce cup of coffee). Any more and you may have trouble falling asleep at night.
- Change tasks. Boredom can exacerbate any drowsiness that you're already experiencing, says Walslben. If you can't trade the project you're working on for one that's more engaging, take a five-minute break, preferably away from your desk, so you can return to it feeling refreshed.
- Have a snack. If it's been three or more hours since you last ate, having a light snack that combines carbohydrates, protein and a little fat (like a low-fat yogurt or hummus with half a pita) can help wake you up by providing a boost in blood sugar, says Moore. "But don't give in to the temptation to have a high-sugar snack, like a candy bar," she cautions. In addition to hundreds of calories, "It'll give you a quick lift, but it'll lead to an even quicker crash, and you'll be more tired than you were in the first place."
- Move around. You may not have time to hit the gym after lunch, but even a short stroll around the block can increase body temperature, heart rate and metabolic rate, all of which can make you more alert, says Walsleben. Adds Moore: "A little bit of activity goes a long way. You'll be burning calories, waking up your body and giving your mind a chance to rejuvenate."
- Get some shut-eye. Siestas are popular around the world for a good reason: a short nap is one of the best ways to fight fatigue, says Walsleben. If you work from home, have an understanding employer, or are a stay-at-home parent who can arrange for someone to watch your children for a little while, aim to sleep (or even just to lie down) for 20-30 minutes. Don't forget to set your alarm clock: doze any longer and you risk entering a phase of deep sleep that will cause you to feel drowsy when you wake.
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