How to beat that afternoon slump

Battling to keep your eyes open at 3pm? Here’s how to boost your post-lunch productivity

EMPLOYERS are going to great lengths to keep staff alert throughout the day. Google and P&G have invested in “EnergyPods” – chairs designed for power naps in the office. Others are creating “social workplaces,” with afternoon ice cream contests and skateboarding competitions. Here are some (more practical) suggestions for banishing the afternoon productivity slump.

Contrary to popular belief, stepping outside for some quick fresh air may not increase productivity, and could even lead to increased weariness. According to Charlotte Fritz of Portland State University, going outside for a microbreak “showed no statistical relationship to vitality and fatigue levels.” But spending that time doing something job-related, like helping a colleague or learning something new, will jumpstart energy.

As for coffee breaks? Caffeine is a stimulant, so an afternoon latte could help with concentration. But Fritz warns it could lead to greater lethargy, not lower. If you can’t resist the caffeine fix, don’t let it replace a real meal: “It will mask your low blood sugar, but won’t do anything to satisfy the need for energy,” Dan Benardot of Georgia State University told Today Health.

Get your lunchtime meal wrong and you could feel your eyelids drooping come 2pm. Harvard Health recommends eating small meals and snacks every few hours rather than three large meals a day. This will give the brain a steady supply of nutrients. Keep lunch light – or all your afternoon energy will go towards digestion.

A Cambridge University study, meanwhile, has shown that protein, not sugar, will beat the afternoon fatigue. So if you eat carbohydrates at lunch, have a protein-rich afternoon snack – like mixed nuts or beef jerky. Yum. And a short walk after lunch will get the blood circulating, helping you feel reinvigorated.

Reasons for midday exercise extend beyond the aesthetic. In fact, researchers from the University of Bristol found that employees who worked out on work days were more productive, and better equipped to deal with the afternoon’s battles. Exercising over lunch will clear the mind and boost energy levels. No time? That’s no excuse: the seven-minute workout – consisting of 12 high-intensity exercises – is making waves across the pond.

The afternoon siesta may be a hard one to justify to your colleagues, but studies show that power naps improve mental efficiency and productivity. According to Harvard Sleep researcher Robert Stickgold, napping makes people more effective problem solvers.

Take it between 1pm and 4pm – but sleep for too long, and you risk waking up groggy and disorientated. Sara Mednick of the University of California has found a 10 to 20 minute power nap is enough to get back to work feeling sprightly. Sleep partially upright – it could make it easier to wake up.

A final heads up: according to Stanford University research, if you find yourself dreaming during a short nap, chances are you’re “very sleep-deprived”. Get a proper night’s sleep (95 per cent of us need between seven and eight hours per night). Any less and your body will be unprepared.

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