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Conquer Afternoon Fatigue: Top 15 Strategies to Beat the Slump

Learn the common causes of afternoon fatigue and the top strategies to remedy it.

Jodi Monroe
Writer at Motion
Mar 22, 2024
Table of contents

Are you thinking of refilling your coffee cup again? Hoping more caffeine will help you squeeze in a few more hours of focused work?

Afternoon fatigue often hits the best workers at the worst of times.

But what makes you feel so sluggish, and can you do anything about it?

This article discusses common causes of afternoon fatigue and the top strategies for conquering it once and for all.

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What is afternoon fatigue?

Afternoon fatigue, also called the midday slump, occurs when someone experiences a drop in energy in the early to mid-afternoon hours. It’s characterized by drowsiness and difficulty focusing, and it’s typically a response to the body’s circadian rhythm.

Your circadian rhythm is an internal clock that alerts you when to rest or take a break. After you’ve been awake for a while, this system triggers a melatonin release, urging you to slow down.

And if you had insufficient sleep the night before, the afternoon slump might hit you particularly hard.

Why do I feel so tired in the afternoon?

There are several reasons why many people experience a noticeable drop in their energy level when the afternoon arrives. Here are just a few of them:

Causes of Afternoon Fatigue
  • Poor sleep hygiene is a significant culprit. If you’re not logging enough quality sleeping hours, your brain signals you to take a break sooner rather than later.
  • Circadian rhythm imbalances can also affect your energy level. As mentioned, your circadian rhythm is responsible for carefully timing and integrating the body’s natural sleep and wake functions. A well-regulated system ensures maximum brain function.
  • Have you ever felt exhausted after a heavy lunch? When you’ve overeaten, your body processes naturally shift to digestion. Blood that might have been directed to the brain (and the areas that help with concentration and alertness) is sent to the digestive tract instead.
  • An afternoon coffee crash can also contribute to the midday slump. If you rely on caffeine to get you through the mornings, you may be sleepy, irritable, easily distracted, or prone to headaches later in the day.
  • You may not get enough movement to fuel yourself during a busy workweek. The benefits of regular exercise, which include boosts to physical and mental health, are well-known. But did you know that sitting all day and skipping your workout can also cause you to feel more tired?

One or more of these issues may be contributing to afternoon fatigue. So, you’ll want to address them to turn your midday slump problems around. In the meantime, you can implement some actionable daily strategies to address afternoon energy dips. More on this next.

How to fight afternoon fatigue

Ready to take back your afternoons? Here’s how to beat that midday slump for good:

1. Recharge with a power nap

While most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night, this doesn’t always happen.

Recharge With a Power Nap

‎If you have a restless night or stay up too late, take a power nap the next day.

Naps boost memory, vigilance, and processing speed in healthy adults. Some cultures even encourage regular afternoon naps to boost energy.

Naps should last about 20 minutes to increase alertness and keep you from entering the deep sleep cycle. If you slumber for over 30 minutes, waking up and returning to your day is more challenging.

You can also try the “Nappucino” method. Drink a cup of coffee before you nap; then, set your timer for 20 to 30 minutes of rest. Since it takes caffeine at least 15 minutes to take effect, you may notice a nice boost in your energy level when you wake up.

2. Slot in an afternoon workout

Did you know that a single bout of exercise can boost your cognitive flexibility? You only need 20 minutes of aerobic activity to reap the benefits and feel a surge of energy and mental clarity.

Exercise boosts cognitive flexibility

‎If your office has access to a gym, hop on the treadmill, rower, or exercise bike. Pack a jump rope and get your heart pumping on your lunch break. Head outside for a brisk walk around the block.

You can slot this movement time into your schedule by creating a personal workspace for exercise in Motion. In doing so, you’ll prioritize your well-being and improve your work-life balance.

3. Soak up the sun

Head outside for about 20 to 30 minutes to realize the benefits of sunlight.

Sunlight is a good source of vitamin D, which is well-known for supporting overall health and mood. Natural light also suppresses melatonin, the hormone that contributes to sleepiness, making you feel more alert when exposed to it.

However, what if you can’t get outside? You might face inclement weather or work in a location without easily accessible walking paths.

If this is the case, consider investing in a light therapy lamp. These light sources may be able to boost serotonin, a chemical that can improve your mood and energy.

4. Reap the benefits of nature

Spending time in green spaces is another way to fight the afternoon energy slump, as they are proven to fight fatigue and bolster energy.

Head to your neighborhood park, take a stroll down a tree-lined street, or even stop in at a local plant nursery to lose yourself among the bright flowers and leaves for a while. Heading outside provides an excellent opportunity for cardio and mindfulness, too.

If you can’t head outside regularly, don’t sweat it. You can bring the outdoors in by creating biophilic spaces to reap the same rewards. Invest in a spider plant, areca palm, or snake plant to enjoy the additional boosts of energy-giving oxygen.

5. Put on some tunes

Music is a simple way to bolster your energy level in the afternoon. Put on your headphones and get an energizing playlist going to boost your mood.

Music therapy is also shown to combat fatigue. Not only that, but it can also boost creativity.

If you’re looking for a non-music option, why not play nature sounds instead? You’ll notice positive gains in your productivity and possibly lower stress.

6. Mix up your positions

Remember the costs of sitting all day? Here are some alternatives to getting yourself out of your chair and moving:

  • sit-stand desk helps you vary your positions throughout the workday.
  • A durable standing mat helps combat fatigue when you’re on your feet.
  • If you can’t raise your desk, look for a device to lift your laptop instead.
  • Shift to another location in your office or home space, whether that’s a couch, a counter, or a conference room.
  • Invest in a balance ball chair to engage your core and improve your focus while sitting.

If you’re used to staying in the same place, Motion’s Task Manager can remind you to mix things up.

7. Pop in a stick of peppermint gum

Chewing gum helps increase oxygen flow to the attention and focus areas of the brain when you sorely need it.

Any flavor will do it, but if you can, reach for peppermint. Why? This herb is known to increase focus and alertness.

If gum isn’t something you like, try peppermint tea or load up an infuser with peppermint oil.

8. Eat a healthier lunch

While you don’t want to overdo it at lunch, you shouldn’t skimp on it, either. Your body needs the energy boosts that come with lean proteins.

Foods packed with protein take longer to digest. You’ll feel satisfied longer, and your energy won’t be diverted solely to the task of digestion.

Try a salad with grilled chicken or tofu. Mix up egg salad or tuna fish, and slather it onto whole-grain bread. Enjoy a black bean and vegetable burrito in a low-carb wrap.

9. Don’t skimp on the afternoon snacks

When it comes to snacks, there are a lot of healthy options to choose from.

Look for snacks with complex carbohydrates. These take longer to break down and digest, giving you the energy boost you’re looking for. Top whole-grain toast with almond butter, or grab a handful of trail mix.

Fresh fruit is another excellent alternative. Toss some berries in low-fat Greek yogurt, blend up a smoothie, or enjoy a cup of fruit salad.

10. Switch to green tea after lunch

If you need that caffeine boost in the afternoon, try switching from coffee to green tea. Green tea is full of antioxidants and L-theanine, which support calmness and focus. It also has less caffeine than coffee — but still enough to give you a burst of energy. This means you have a lower chance of “crashing” later. You’ll also avoid the coffee “jitters” that can impede concentration.

11. Hydrate early and often

If you’re not already a consistent water drinker, it’s time to start.

Keep a bottle or glass of water nearby — especially earlier in the day — and discover the cognitive benefits of staying hydrated. Better hydration offers boosts in visual and verbal memory.

12. Make meditation a priority

Meditation helps manage stress levels, a top concern for 44% of employees.

Employee fighting high stress level

‎Mantra meditation, in particular, helps with stress and anxiety, so pick a meaningful, relaxing, and encouraging mantra. These often begin with an “I” statement, such as “I am calm” or “I have what I need.”

Just 15 to 20 minutes of meditation is enough to reset your energy level and help you return to your day. Try out an app, such as Headspace, Calm, or Insight Timer, to keep you on track.

13. Maximize your mornings

Use time blocking to set times for deep work in the morning when you’re at your most focused.

Motion time blocking feature

‎Getting your most important work done early leaves you feeling less stressed about later tasks.

If you’re prone to energy slumps, you’ll also be more productive in the morning since you’ll have the bandwidth to focus on your most essential tasks.

Set focus times on your schedule with Motion’s Intelligent Calendar. It monitors your daily deep work tasks to ensure you stay on track.

14. Structure your afternoons

Plan more frequent breaks in the afternoon to exercise, grab a snack, or meditate.

Motion recurring tasks feature

‎Set recurring tasks in the afternoon to remind you to stop and take a break, whether that means brewing a cup of green tea or grabbing a quick walk.

Plan your meetings for the afternoon so you’re not wasting your high-energy (or deep focus) time in the mornings when you’re most alert.

Motion allows you to set your meeting preferences to prevent important meetings from popping up at the worst possible times.

15. Consider using a flexible schedule

Flexible schedules are becoming increasingly popular in the modern workforce. Consider whether you might benefit from one.

For example, would an earlier start time help boost your morning productivity? Could you schedule a more extended lunch break to include an exercise class? Would a staggered workday allow you to work in a nap or an afternoon stroll to the park?

Motion lets you set flexible hours, which is especially helpful if your schedule changes from day to day.

Recharge your afternoons with Motion

Now, you’re ready to overcome afternoon fatigue for good.

Put a few of these strategies into practice. Before you know it, you’ll re-energize your afternoons.

Motion can help you save even more time and energy. It takes every task, from regular to-dos to one-time events, and slots them into a customized schedule. Even better? If an emergency pops up, Motion re-prioritizes your day in seconds. It slots your tasks around the rest of your workday, ensuring you’re always focused on what matters.

Don’t wait to reclaim your afternoons. Check out Motion with a risk-free 7-day trial today.

Jodi Monroe
Jodi Monroe is a content writer and blogger in the SaaS space. When not at her laptop, she’s planning her next travel adventure.
Written by Jodi Monroe