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How to Beat the Midday Slump

We’ve all been there, 2 pm hits, and all of a sudden you’re feeling exhausted. Motivation is gone. Energy is gone. You have no idea how you’ll make it to the end of the workday.

This phenomenon is known as the midday slump, an experience that is unfortunately common to many of us. In this blog, we’ll break down why you feel the midday slump and some ways to beat it for good!

Midday slump 101:

The midday slump is a naturally occurring phenomenon caused by the circadian rhythm. It's an experience felt throughout the world, and why many cultures have a siesta break in the middle of the workday. Napping in the middle of the day allows people to return to work more productive and concentrated for the latter half of the workday. Unfortunately, siestas are not common practice in the US, which means we have to power through.

Midday sleepiness is similar to the drowsiness you feel before bedtime. It’s accompanied by a dip in core body temperature, which sends a signal to the brain to release melatonin and begin to drift off to sleep.

But your internal clock isn’t all that makes you sleepy in the afternoon. Eating habits, hydration levels, stress levels, and exercise can all lead to a massive energy crash around 2 pm. If you’re feeling sluggish in the afternoon, before you blame biology, ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I eat breakfast?

  • What did I eat for breakfast?

  • What did I eat for lunch?

  • Did I drink enough water?

  • Did I work out too hard?

  • Am I feeling stressed?

Your answer to these questions may reveal the source of your midday slump.

Ways to beat the midday slump:

Eat foods that will give you energy:

The food you eat throughout the day will have a big impact on your energy levels. Consuming a sugary breakfast may give you an immediate rush of energy, but will leave you feeling exhausted when your blood sugar levels drop later in the day. Eating a breakfast high in soluble fiber, healthy fats, and proteins will help you beat the midday slump and stay energized throughout the day.

Eating a healthy lunch will also keep you powering through the rest of your day. Try to eat lunches with foods rich in iron and nitrates that will increase oxygen levels in your blood. These foods include leafy veggies, pomegranates, cabbage, sprouts, meat, nuts, and garlic. Such foods will help to spark and maintain energy levels.

Example breakfast:

  • Hot oats with nut butter, walnuts, cinnamon, and berries

  • Smoothie packed with fruits and veggies

  • Egg and veggie frittata

Example lunch:

  • Salad with dark, leafy greens, legumes, lentils, grass-fed protein, avocado, and fruit

When deciding what energizing meals to make, don’t forget to prioritize taste! Eat foods you genuinely enjoy. This will help combat mental fatigue and improve your energy.

Practice breathwork:

Most of us tend to breathe shallowly or intensely, which leads to more biological stress. Slow, controlled breathing can help increase oxygen in your bloodstream, which will lead to more energy.

Deep breathing can even lead to greater cerebral oxygen delivery, which will improve cognitive ability, increase alertness, reduce anxiety, and increase relaxation.

You can practice deep breathing throughout the day during times when you’re feeling the slump come on. One of our favorite deep breathing exercises is the box or square breath technique. The style is named for its 4-4-4-4 ratio.

To practice this technique, all you need to do is:

  • Inhale for a count of 4

  • Hold your breath in for a count of 4

  • Exhale for a couch of 4

  • Hold your breath out for a count of 4

You can practice this duration as many times as you want. This practice is known to help equalize, harmonize, and balance your body. It is great for calming the mind, reducing stress and worry, and energizing the body and mind.

Go for a walk:

A study from the journal of Physiology and Behavior found that short periods of physical activities (like 15 minutes of walking) were more effective in boosting energy levels than caffeine consumption.

When you feel the sleepiness wash over you, get up and go for a quick walk. Even a short stroll down the hall should be enough to wake you back up.

Drink enough water:

Even mild dehydration can cause drowsiness, headaches, brain fog, and mental fatigue. Dehydration can even make your mood worse. And, unfortunately, most of us don’t get enough water throughout the day.

The best way to ensure you’re drinking enough water is to remember this rule of thumb: divide your body weight in half and drink that amount in ounces. For example, if you weigh 170 pounds, you need 85 ounces of water per day.

Try these tips if you just can’t tolerate the taste of that much water:

  • Add a splash of lemon juice

  • Put up post-its or use a water-reminding app

  • Add fruits and veggies like cucumbers or raspberries

Try low-intensity exercise:

If you want to do a little more than just walk, you can try some other forms of low-intensity exercise to boost your energy levels. Regular exercise increases blood flow throughout the body, which will deliver more oxygen to the brain and tissues. Exercise also has a positive effect on sleep, which will help you maintain energy throughout the day.

The best time to work out is between 2-6 pm, when your metabolism and body temperature are at their peak. This will help you get the most out of your workout physiologically. Some great low-intensity workouts to try include:

  • Going for an easy jog

  • Doing a 30-minute yoga flow

  • Riding your bike

  • Doing some pilates or stretching

The reason we recommend low-intensity workouts is because high-intensity workouts will cause further your fatigue. High-intensity exercise causes muscle and neural fatigue. Low-intensity workouts can actually help reduce the symptoms of fatigue caused by high-intensity workouts.

Listen to music:

Several studies have shown that listening to music can increase your concentration throughout the day. Similar to how music can pump you up for a workout, it can have the same effect on your workday.

We recommend trying music that has a laid-back beat and no lyrics. Lyrics tend to be distracting and can cause you to lose focus.

Take a power nap:

Everyone loves a good nap. Napping can help reduce fatigue, increase alertness, improve mood, promote relaxation, and improve performance. But, napping at the wrong time of day or for too long can cause trouble sleeping at night or grogginess.

Here are some tips for taking an effective power nap:

  • Keep your naps short → If you're napping for longer than 10 to 20 minutes, you're doing it for too long. Sticking to shorter naps will help to prevent grogginess throughout the day.

  • Take naps in the early afternoon → Make sure you're napping before 3 pm. Any later can cause problems with sleeping later at night.

  • Make sure you're napping somewhere comfortable → Find a quiet, dark, and cool place to nap during the day. This will help you make the most of your midday naps.

After getting some quick shut-eye, give your body and mind some time before resuming activities.

Other tips:

  • Chew gum → One study found that chewing gum can help to improve alertness, increase happiness, and improve reaction time throughout the day.

  • Get some sun → Even getting 10 minutes of vitamin D will help you boost your energy and brighten your mood.

  • Look at pictures of cute animals → According to a Japanese study, looking at cute animal pictures can improve your mood and boost productivity.

  • Fix your posture → Slumping in your chair will only worsen the effects of your midday slump. Instead, sit up straight in your chair. This will boost stamina, increase productivity, and improve your mood.

  • Phone a friend or family member → Having a quick conversation with someone is a great way to wake your mind back up! Be sure to pick someone who makes you laugh and not someone who further stresses you out.

If you often find yourself struggling with the midday slump and none of the above solutions offer you any relief, the root of your fatigue may be deeper than diet or lack of sleep. Chronic fatigue can also be caused by issues like Long Covid, hormonal imbalances, and stress.

At the Johnson Center, we'll work with you to find the true cause of your midday slump, and find solutions that work for you.

For more information about optimal health at The Johnson Center, click here to contact us. Or, email our office at or call 276-235-3205, to set up your complimentary 15-minute discovery call with Dr. Johnson!

The Johnson Center for Health services patients in-person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!