3 ways to increase the afternoon slump

Are you pre-destined to experience an afternoon slump, or can you influence the size of the slump to some degree?  While the afternoon dip in alertness is part of our normal biological rhythms, there are some common lifestyle habits that can makes the afternoon a whole lot worse than it needs to be. 

1. Skimp on overnight sleep:


People who are sleep deprived experience the afternoon slump more dramatically than the well-slept.  So those extra hours at night that you spend doodling on your phone or ipad could be setting you up for one big energy dip the next afternoon.  What would it take to give yourself the amount of sleep you actually need?  Somewhere between six and nine hours is associated with the best health.  Research shows that sleep requirements vary quite a bit between individuals, so don’t compare yourself to what someone else needs. 

2. Have heaps of caffeine in the morning:


What goes up must come down, so perhaps it’s not surprising that people who give up, or cut right back on their morning caffeine blast say they have much more stable energy levels during the rest of the day.  I know, I know – that morning coffee is just so loved and needed.  But if you are curious, you could try it for yourself and notice the effect on your afternoon energy levels – after you get over any caffeine withdrawal effects, that is, and are making sure you’re getting enough overnight sleep. 

3.  Skip lunch or fill up on a high-glycaemic index carbohydrate lunch:


First of all the term ‘post-lunch’ dip is a bit misleading because even though the afternoon slump is part of our normal biological rhythms, research shows it occurs independently of lunch.   So skipping lunch won’t help – it’ll probably just lead to low blood sugars at the time of the afternoon dip exacerbating that low-energy feeling.

Then there’s the type of lunch you have.  There is some evidence that eating a high glycaemia index (GI*) carbohydrate meal (eg one based on jasmine rice) makes you fall asleep more quickly than a low GI meal such as one based on Mahatma rice.  (Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:426 –30.) The impact of carbohydrates on sleepiness is reasonably subtle so could probably be over-ridden by adrenaline – which peaks after a strong latte or during a high stress day – or by eating some protein at the same time. 

If you suffer from the afternoon slump it’d be worth experimenting with the type of lunch you have:  Ensure a good serve of protein, such as chicken, egg, fish, nuts or meat with some salad.  If you want some carbohydrate foods as well chose a low glycaemic index one, such as legumes, bread with intact wholegrains in it or some yoghurt.  Go to glycaemic index.com to check out the GI of foods you are interested in.

*What is GI? The Glycaemic index ranks foods from 0 to 100 according to how much a carbohydrate food makes your blood sugar levels rise.  A low GI food will have a value of 55 or less; a medium GI food of between 56 and 69; with a high GI food being one with a GI of 70 or more. The lower the GI, the lower the blood glucose spike after eating, which is generally better for your health.