When you planned for retirement, you might’ve had ambitious dreams of travel, fun, and family. But now that you’re a bit older, you may find yourself constantly feeling sleepy in the middle of the day — whether you’re already at retirement age, or still planning for the future.
If that sounds like you, you’re not alone. As we get older, it becomes increasingly hard to keep our energy levels up all day. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Luckily, there are a number of ways that anyone — from the youngest folks to seniors — can fight the midday slump and boost energy levels when tired throughout the day.
Here’s a list of both short-term energy boosters you can try in the moment and long-term lifestyle changes you can make to help ward off afternoon sluggishness.
Of course, if you’re dealing with chronic fatigue, your best bet is always to talk to a doctor — they’ll likely have advice more targeted to you specifically.
Why You Might Get Tired Mid-Day
It’s no coincidence that many people find themselves feeling sleepy smack dab in the middle of the afternoon.
Feelings of sleepiness or wakefulness are regulated by your body’s circadian rhythms (or sleep-wake cycle). Circadian rhythms dip and rise over a 24-hour cycle, releasing hormones that make you feel tired or awake.
In most people, the strongest urge to sleep usually hits between 2:00-4:00 AM and then again between 1:00-3:00 PM, in the middle of the day.1,2
That midday slump? It’s not in your head. Beyond your natural sleep-wake cycle, here are a few other possible reasons why you feel so sleepy in the afternoon:
- Your lunch was high in carbohydrates.
- You’ve been sitting still for hours.
- You’re feeling dehydrated.3
- You’re not getting enough sleep in general.
- You’re under a high amount of stress, so you have elevated cortisol levels.4
Possible Short Term Strategies For Fatigue
If you’re feeling your energy levels slump in the middle of the day, try one of these methods to feeling a bit more awake. They just might help you fight off that urge to slump over and sleep in your recliner.
1. Step Away From The Screen
Staring at a screen at a close distance can strain your eyes, making your eyes feel tired. If you find yourself squinting and feeling sluggish, give your brain and your eyes a break, and put down the screen.5
2. Get Moving
When fatigue starts creeping in, one of the best things you can do is move your body. A quick, midday trip to the gym may help ward of sleepiness. At the gym, try a physical activity like aerobic exercise, which can raise your heart rate and make you feel awake.
If a trip to the gym seems out of the question, any kind of physical activity will do. Take a walk around the block, walk up and down the stairs, or do a few jumping jacks or squats in your living room.6
Note: Always check with your doctor before you begin any new exercise routine.
3. Drink Water
If you’re feeling sluggish, fill up a glass and drink water. Dehydration can make you feel sluggish, irritable, and off your game.7Staying hydrated may also help you sleep better at night, so you’re less likely to be sleepy the next day.8
4. Chew Gum
Try combatting a midday slump by chewing a piece of gum. Studies have shown that chewing can relieve sleepiness.9 To avoid spiking your blood sugar, stick to the sugar-free kind, and look or healthier sweeteners like stevia rather than aspartame.
Several studies have linked meditation with increased productivity, focus, and energy.
When you meditate, you let go of stress and allow your brain to “shut off” temporarily. This may help combat anxiety and boost your mood, which can both affect your energy level.10
Want to try meditation but not sure where to start? These days, there are a ton of free apps that can help guide you. Do a search in the app store, or seek out YouTube videos that can help you. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be finding your zen zone in no time.
6. Take A Power Nap
If you’re truly struggling to keep your eyes open, sometimes it’s best to just take a quick power nap. Sneaking in just 10-20 minutes of sleep can give your brain a break, helping you combat extreme tiredness and give you an energy boost.11
7. Talk To Someone You Care About
If you’re sitting at home alone and find your energy levels slipping, try calling a friend or stopping by for a visit. Connecting with other people can help you feel more engaged with the world. It can boost your mood and give you natural energy.12
8. Listen To Some Music
If you find yourself nodding off and fighting sleep after lunch, try listening to your favorite music. Music can boost your mood, which can help fight fatigue and make you feel alert.13
Boost Energy When Tired: Possible Long Term Strategies
If you regularly face fatigue and extreme tiredness, you may need more than just short-term strategies. Talk to your doctor about combatting your tiredness and ask if these strategies will work for you.
1. Get Enough Sleep
You probably saw this one coming, but it must be said. One key to feeling more energized during the day is to make sure you get a good night’s sleep. Several studies support the idea that sleep improves focus, productivity, and performance.14
If you get the recommended eight hours of sleep a night, the midday dips in your circadian rhythms may be less intense.15
As they age, some seniors report that it becomes harder to fall asleep.16 If you struggle to get enough sleep, speak with your doctor to develop some strategies. They may recommend a vitamin B, magnesium, or fatty acids supplement to help support restful sleep.17-19
2. Get More Exercise
Instead of relying on caffeine or energy drinks to get you through an afternoon slump, you may want to get more exercise. The benefits of exercise are widely recognized. Exercise releases endorphins, helps relieve stress, boosts heart health, and promotes better sleep.20 Regular exercise might help with fatigue too.
One study found that regular exercise can reduce the symptoms of fatigue.
In the study, two groups of adults started a six-week exercise regime. Both groups saw improvements in their overall energy levels.21
3. Overhaul Your Diet
Diet can strongly affect your energy levels. If you consistently feel sluggish in the middle of the day, take a close look at what you’re eating in the afternoon. You may experience an energy crash after eating a meal that’s high in carbohydrates, especially if you’re indulging in sugary treats like cake or ice cream.
Eating sugar causes your blood sugar to rise rapidly, which is a very quick way to boost energy when tired. HOWEVER, the benefits are very short term. When sugar enters your bloodstream, your body produces insulin that then causes your blood sugar level to drop rapidly. This can make you feel even more tired.
Try the following:
- Avoid sugar as much as possible and eat a variety of foods so you get a mix of protein, fiber, and fat.
- Avoid carb-heavy meals in the middle of the day.
- Plan your meals to incorporate more fruits and vegetables.22
- Avoid drinking alcohol in the middle of the day.
- Try a low carb snack, like veggies with hummus or guacamole, that won’t cause a dip in your blood sugar.23
4. Remember To Eat Breakfast
To avoid plummeting blood sugar levels and a mid-morning energy slump, make sure you eat a balanced, healthful breakfast. If you miss eating the day’s first meal, you may have to tap into your body’s energy reserves later in the day.24
5. Change Your Caffeine Habits
Many experts say that drinking a cup of coffee is totally fine. In fact, coffee may help boost your mood and make you feel more alert. No surprises there. But if you’re a diehard coffee drinker, it may be time to re-think your relationship with caffeine.
If you’re in the habit of pouring yourself a second or third cup of coffee in the middle of the afternoon, it may be counterproductive.
Coffee is a vasoconstrictor and a diuretic.26 It dehydrates the body – which can affect your quality of sleep. Dehydration can lead to elevated blood pressure and feelings of sluggishness and fatigue.
Here are a few tips to manage your coffee consumption:
- Only drink coffee in the morning.
- Consider switching to green tea, which has less caffeine than a cup of coffee.
- Avoid adding sugar to coffee and tea
- Limit coffee to 4 cups (400 milligrams) per day.27
Combat Fatigue And Feel Better
If you’re regularly feeling sleepy at around 2:00 PM every day, it would be easy to blame your body’s natural rhythms. But despite this natural dip in energy, other factors can be contributing to your sleepiness as well. Luckily, there are things you might be able to do to boost your energy and fight fatigue.
Energy slumps aren’t just something you should have to deal with. If you need help fighting fatigue, reach out to your doctor. Make a plan that can help you reclaim your energy, so you can get out there and do all of the things you want to do. It likely comes down to sleep, diet, and exercise, which are important at any age.
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