Does this sound familiar? You're going full steam ahead in the morning,
plowing through work assignments or household tasks. You take a quick break for
lunch -- or maybe just grab something at your desk -- and plan on getting right
back to your routine. Instead, at about 2 p.m. you find your attention
wandering and your focus flagging, and all you really want to do is take a nap.
How can you get a quick energy boost to keep you going?
First, you should understand where that sudden crash probably came from.
"There seems to be a natural rhythm or set clock in our bodies, so many people
tend to feel a little sleepy around 2 or 3 in the afternoon," says Lona Sandon,
RD, MEd, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and an assistant
professor of nutrition at the University of
Texas Southwestern Medical Center. "There seems to be something natural about
this lull. Some cultures have the siesta, and people find that they're more
productive and better able to concentrate if they take time off after lunch and
come back later."
WebMD's sleep expert, Michael J. Breus,
PhD, author of Beauty Sleep, explains that midday sleepiness is like a
miniature version of the drowsiness you feel just before bedtime. "It has to do
with a dip in your core body temperature," Breus says. "Right before you go to
sleep at night, your core temperature begins to drop, which is a signal to the
brain to release melatonin. The exact same thing
happens on a smaller scale between 2 and 4 in the afternoon. It's a mini-signal
to your brain to get sleepy."
But don't blame it all on your body's internal clock -- your body makes you
sleepy, but your own eating habits may make you fatigued -- for a double whammy
leading to a massive energy crash. "Often, people don't fuel their bodies well
enough when they start the day," Sandon tells WebMD.
If you're feeling sluggish in the early afternoon, ask yourself these
Did I eat breakfast?
What did I eat for breakfast? (A cup of coffee doesn't count.)
What did I eat for lunch? Was it from the vending machine?
Your answers may point to the problem. A cup of coffee on the run for
breakfast and a candy bar from the vending machine for lunch may give you the
quick jolt of sugar and caffeine you need to get started, but not the long-term
fuel you need to keep going, Sandon says. "They will only help for a very short
time, and it's not enough to keep the body and brain functioning at their
Foods for an Energy Boost
If you want to beat the midafternoon slump, start first thing in the morning
with a good-quality breakfast. (We lecture our kids about it, but how often do
we take our own advice?) Most women should be eating about 300 to 400 calories
for breakfast, and most men, about 500, says Sandon. Instead of coffee and half
a Danish, try these options:
A bowl of cereal with skim milk and a glass of juice or piece of fresh
Two slices of toast with peanut butter and a banana
An English muffin topped with a scrambled egg and a slice of low-fat