The Science Behind Your Midday Energy Crash

Well, this is odd. Just an hour or two ago it was lunchtime and you felt great. Your energy level was through the roof as you stepped out of the office and went to your favorite cafe for lunch. The food was delicious, you soaked up every minute of your hour break, and arrived back at your desk charged up and ready to finish out the day.

Then 2 pm rolls around. All you can think about now is counting down the minutes left before you get to disappear for the day, rush home, and take an afternoon nap. This is a pretty common feeling amongst many people and believe it or not, it’s also pretty natural. Many believe it is as simple as high-carb lunches followed by a drop in energy once the insulin spike wears off. Of course, poor or inconsistent sleep habits or a night of tossing and turning can obviously impact energy the next day as well. But researchers suggest there are actually much more natural reasons to explain that routine of getting a midday spike followed by the dreaded 2:30 crash.

One explanation, according to Dr. Fiona Kerr who is a Neural and Systems Complexity Specialist from the University of Adelaide, is that our bodies are just naturally built for two sleeps a day. “The primary effect is the blocking of neurogenesis through increases in corticosterone levels but there is also a drop in attention capacity, executive function, working memory, quantification skills, logical reasoning, motor dexterity and mood,” she says.

In order to reverse those midday roadblocks, she suggests the better solution isn’t actually making sure you get more sleep the night before and in the morning, rather a quick 15-minute nap to hit the reset button on this drop in energy. According to Kerr, the short midday nap temporarily improves performance, awareness, and even your mood, to name a few. And those effects can last through the next two to three hours, also helping you avoid that late-day reach for more coffee. And since caffeine can take as much as seven hours to work its way out of your body, a 15-minute nap at 3 pm is certainly going to serve you better when 10 pm rolls around and you don’t have caffeine still coursing through your veins.

Of course, napping isn’t exactly convenient in the modern workday. Most of us don’t have an office door to close and a couch to crash on while our assistant holds all our calls over the next half hour. What you can do, however, is be more productive with a more universal schedule. Assuming you did get that hour lunch break anytime from noon to 1 pm, you’ve actually been given the opportunity to get out in front of the crash, according to some researchers.

First, even ten minutes of relaxation and closing your eyes during your lunch break can fight off the crash. And if you’re still adamant about not taking a nap, another option is to try the exact opposite: exercise. A walk, a quick jog, or even a few minutes of stretching during your lunch break will increase blood and oxygen flow and release endorphins, giving you a little more energy heading into that dreaded 2 o’clock hour rather than setting you up for a miserable afternoon of drowsiness.

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