There are many reasons why people feel less energetic in the afternoon, especially between 1 and 4 pm. In part, it’s physiological: Our normal circadian cycle dictates a period of sleepiness or decreased alertness in the afternoon. However, sleep disorders, medical disorders, stress, insufficient sleep or poor eating habits can also cause excessive sleepiness at this time. Maintaining consistent sleep schedules, even on the weekends, will help your energy levels throughout the day.
If you experience an excessive mid-day slump, think twice before reaching for empty afternoon calories or taking a power nap, which can interrupt your normal sleep patterns. Instead, get up and move around, preferably outside, to get your blood and oxygen pumping, reduce tension and boost your vitamin D from the natural light. Make sure you’re drinking enough water because dehydration can cause fatigue. And, if you are really hungry, opt for a protein-based, energy-boosting snack such as lean chicken or a handful of almonds.
If you’re experiencing significant fatigue or an intense need to sleep on a consistent basis in the mid-afternoon, there may be other underlying reasons that you should discuss with a physician.
Ian Katznelson, MD, neurologist, Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital