You’re probably well aware of the feeling. Even though it’s only 2 p.m., you’re having trouble keeping your eyes open. You want to pull a George Costanza and crawl under your desk for a nap.
You’re the victim of the post-lunch slump, and you’re not alone. A combination of your circadian rhythm, which is naturally in resting phase in the afternoon, and after-lunch digestion is to blame for your midday crash.
It might be natural to experience this crash, but “not everyone experiences it with equal intensity,” said David Dinges, a professor and sleep scientist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
But you can do something about it. Here are six ways you can beat the post-lunch slump:
One way to avoid that super-tired feeling in the afternoon is to eat smarter. First, don’t skip breakfast. Robbie Clark, a dietitian and sports nutritionist, says eating breakfast will help reduce fatigue in the afternoon. Next, eat smaller meals throughout the day if you can. That’s because smaller, more frequent meals will keep your blood sugar level steady and take less energy for your body to digest. And when you eat, choose a balance of lean protein, whole grains, and vegetables. These healthful foods may make you less tired after eating.
When that tired feeling hits, hit back with some exercise. If you can, get up from your desk and go for a walk around the office. Or run up a flight of stairs. If you can’t leave your desk, stand up and do some squats, lunges or jumping jacks—anything to get your blood pumping. Changing your focus from your computer screen and moving around will help combat your afternoon crash.
If you can, eat your lunch outside. Clark says being outdoors increases oxygen to the brain, and increasing oxygen minimizes the post-lunch slump. You could even combine your time outside with a little exercise, like a walk around the block. After being outside for lunch, you’ll feel more revitalized when you get back to your desk.
Many people use caffeinated beverages to pull themselves out of their after-lunch crash. These drinks are an easy way to perk up and keep performing after lunch. But don’t sip all afternoon—caffeine can linger in your body and make it difficult to fall asleep at night. And if you don’t drink caffeine, a glass of cold water will refresh you and help you focus.
Have you ever found that chewing on something—gum or a snack—helps keep you awake? A 2011 study at St. Lawrence University found that people who chewed gum for five minutes before a test performed better than those who didn’t have gum. Also, munching on a healthy snack will revive you—try fruit, trail mix, string cheese with whole-wheat crackers, or peanut butter on crackers.
Music can have a positive effect on work performance, and stop your afternoon crash. Teresa Lesiuk, an associate professor at the University of Miami, conducted a study that showed the quality of work and time to complete tasks improves when people listen to music. So find a song playlist and perk up.