As a doctor I can prescribe drugs to deal with many problems if I need to – though I prefer to avoid them if possible. One area that can’t be solved with tablets, however, is low energy. Yes, occasionally people really do have problems with their thyroid gland, leading to tiredness, which does need medication – but it’s much more commonly due to lifestyle issues.
So what does cause that energy slump, common mid-afternoon or early evening? If you understand why it is happening, you can choose from my prescription list of cures!
- Poor sleep: Not rocket science – if we have slept badly the night before, we may manage to struggle through the following morning but get slower and slower come the afternoon.
- Sugar dip: If we have eaten badly during the morning and at lunch, relying on sugary snacks or quick-release processed carbs, our blood sugar will drop mid-afternoon leaving us feeling tired and listless. Not great for a productive afternoon.
- Heavy lunch: It’s not just the content but the volume we eat at lunch. A large meal needs digesting – and our blood supply is diverted to our gut to help –
leaving us feeling lethargic.
- Low light: Studies show that our energy levels respond to natural light. Not surprising really as we weren’t designed to be nocturnal animals. By mid-afternoon, if we have been indoors in front of computer screens and under fluorescent lighting we may be feeling a loss of energy.
- Over-heating: Stuffy, over-warm homes and offices may contribute to our general weariness – partly due to dehydration.
- Too much sitting: By mid-afternoon / early evening some of us have spent many hours sat in a chair, our muscles stiff, our back aching, our eyes under strain – hardly a recipe for energy.
- Natural rhythm: A mid-afternoon slump seems to be programmed into our natural diurnal rhythm. Some cultures just embrace it – think of the Mediterranean siesta – but others try to resist that natural urge to sleep off lunch.
So what can you do about it?
Now you know what causes your own energy slump, help yourself to a personal prescription from me! I recommend choosing more than one cure from the list and take the prescriptions daily for best results!
The eat well cure
Ditch the sugary cereal which gives you a sugar dip and munchies at 11 o’clock. Choose a high protein egg breakfast instead or a bowl of hearty oats with a berry topping to give you slow release energy all morning. At lunch, choose protein again – a tuna sandwich on wholegrain bread is a good choice. Choose sugar-free snacks like a handful of almonds – great for heart health as well as avoiding the sugar dips.
The drink clever cure
Steer clear of the breakfast juice – it’s little more than sugar, after all. Caffeine is fine in moderation – proven to give you a welcome energy boost and may have other health benefits too. But avoid it after lunch or it will affect your sleep and leave you more tired the next day. Drinking at lunchtime is a sure-fire way to feel in need of an afternoon snooze. But even drinking at night doesn’t help. You may feel as though you crashed out and slept all night but your sleep quality will have been worse.
The sleep better cure
Talking of sleep, many of us are getting an hour’s less sleep per night than we used to. Thinking we can make up our sleep debt with a lie-in at the weekends isn’t true, I’m afraid so make sure you get 7-9 hours a night to preserve your energy. Steer clear of screens in the evening – the blue light plays havoc with melatonin. And don’t over-heat your bedroom. 16-18 degrees is apparently just right for shut-eye.
The move more cure
Nothing energises us like exercise. Particularly outdoors in the fresh air. Not only do we feel better at the time, but keeping our weight under control means we have less bulk to shift around – and that leaves us with more energy for other things.