Why do I feel tired in the afternoon?

Published February 24, 2015

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It’s certainly seems to be common for many people to feel tired, sleepy or sluggish mid-afternoon. This is largely to do with the body’s internal clock, which regulates the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. Interestingly, one of our strongest sleep drives (circadian dip) tends to occur between 1-3pm,1 right when the desire for a coffee or something sweet arises. However, the degree of sleepiness we experience during these circadian dips varies depending on a number of factors such as:

  • Sufficient or insufficient sleep – The tiredness you experience mid-afternoon will be less intense if you’ve had sufficient sleep at night time and more intense if you’re sleep deprived.1It’s therefore important to ensure you are allowing plenty of time for quality sleep.
  • Blood sugar balance – What you did, or didn’t eat for lunch, may also impact on your energy levels in the afternoon. If you’re skipping lunch because you’re just too busy, it can cause your blood sugar levels to dip making you feel tired and lethargic.2

Similarly, an inadequate lunch high in refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, white pasta etc., and low in protein may be affecting your blood sugar levels and isn’t providing your body with the long-term fuel you need to keep going.

How to cope with mid-afternoon tiredness

  • Make the necessary changes to ensure you get enough sleep at night time.
  • Avoid coffee late in the afternoon as it may be having an adverse effect on your sleep. If you need something to keep you awake and productive try green tea. It contains a small amount of caffeine as well as a compound called theanine, which keeps you calm and relaxed but still alert. Also ensure you’re well hydrated by drinking water regularly.
  • Reach for a protein-rich snack to help give you lasting energy such as celery sticks with almond butter, wholegrain crackers with hummus or a handful of nuts and seeds. Avoid chocolate bars and lollies.
  • Include good quality protein with your lunch such as chicken, tuna, eggs or beans, and whole grains such as quinoa or brown rice, which will have a favorable effect on your energy levels through the afternoon.
  • Limit the time you sit down and increase physical activity throughout the day.

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