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Why am I so tired ? How to beat the afternoon slump

Updated: Jul 9, 2019

Feel yourself slumping a bit in the afternoon? Tired and reaching for a coffee, or a quick sugary hit? It’s common for people to have a drop in energy sometime after lunch. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world where our workplace views it as acceptable to take a siesta! So let’s explore the possible reasons for the mid-afternoon slump, and what you can do about it.

The first place to look would be your empty lunchbox. What you consume for lunch can have a large impact on what happens to your energy levels next. If your meal was mostly carbohydrate (sandwich, noodles et,), your slump may well be attributed to a ‘carb crash’, also known as functional hypoglycaemia. Unfortunately, that piece of chocolate isn’t going to be the best remedy. Have a read of our article on hypoglycaemia to find out more.

While a carb-laden lunch is often to blame, it’s also possible that you’re eating something that just doesn’t quite agree with you. If a food is difficult to digest, more energy is diverted to your gut to deal with it. More blood flow to your gut means less to your brain! The result is that you have difficulty concentrating, can’t make decisions, etc.

Wheat is often the staple food consumed at lunchtime. (We did mention sandwiches and noodles). Wheat contains gluten and gliadin, and there is evidence to suggest that these compounds have an opioid effect on the brain. This helps to explain that ‘zoned out’ sensation after a bowl of pasta. With wheat featuring so heavily in the lunchbox, it’s little wonder that productivity drops in the afternoon. Ask any school teacher and they will know not to schedule a challenging class after lunch!

Another culprit behind feeling sleepy after a meal is digestive function. When you consume a meal, more blood (carrying oxygen, nutrients and immune cells) is diverted to your digestive organs to help you carry out the task of breaking down the food, absorbing it, and metabolising it, as well as moving everything along your food tube and excreting substances. This is why it’s not a good idea to exercise after eating. Your digestive organs require increased circulation, and exercising diverts blood to your skeletal muscles instead.

If your digestion is working efficiently, less energy is required for the task of processing a meal. Should you have poor digestive function, it requires more energy, meaning less is available for your head!

A way to improve your digestion and energy levels is to make sure you are hungry when you eat. When your mouth is watering and your tummy is rumbling, the machine that is your gut is up and running and ready for action, and digesting food will be more comfortable.

Another simple technique is to heed your grandmother’s words and chew your food properly before swallowing. Food has to be broken down into microscopic particles to be absorbed, and you don’t have teeth in your stomach! Eating at the same time each day also helps to ensure your body gets into the rhythm and habit of digesting food at that time.

So, if you find yourself tired wanting to take a nap after lunch, make sure you’re eating a balanced meal that includes protein, preferably doesn’t include wheat, you’re hungry and hydrated, and not eating on the run. Or just ask your boss if they’d mind you taking a quick nap.

You may wish to consult a Naturopath or Nutritionist for expert advice if you need help with symptoms such as these. This article only scratches the surface, and they’ll have plenty more tools to be able to help you. You can also learn how to help yourself by furthering your nutritional education.

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