Why Do I feel so tired?
It is finally Friday! We are energized and eager to get that inbox emptied just in time for the weekend. Until that three o’clock crash hits us like a heat wave in the desert. Why is it that most people get so sleepy between two and four o’clock each day? We eat right, we love our jobs, and we want to be attentive and aware until that clock strikes five, but it happens anyway. It is hard to think, hard to stay focused, and hard to even keep our eyes open.
It has to do with our biological clock, or circadian cycle. The cycle dictates how alert we are during a twenty-four hour cycle. There are two times during that twenty-four hour cycle when our alertness will drop. Aside from some degree of difference due to life getting us off track, most of us will have these drops between two and four in the morning and again twelve hours later, which is our three o’clock slump. What happens during these times is that the amount of natural light decreases, our body temperature decreases, we have a rise in a hormone that causes sleep called melatonin, and oxygen circulation in our body decreases. Our bodies really do want us to nap. Unfortunately, most of us who work need our job to survive, and most companies frown on crawling under the desk for a siesta.
While we can’t change nature, or the fact that our culture exists due to those of us working during this time to keep it running, we can do a few things to help make it through this mental dip in our day.
Get Your Sleep
If you can take a 20 minute nap, it can improve your focus, but the way to combat the afternoon crash is to get plenty of sleep each night. The afternoon slump is not as intense if you have had a good night’s sleep. In the summer, it is difficult to get the amount of sleep we need because the sun is up, and we have so many fun things to do, but our bodies take cues from the sun. Don’t let yourself stay up late because you have things to get done after the sun goes down. Sleep with the curtain open so that the sun wakes you, and then let yourself wind down in the evenings as the sun goes down. Avoid doing stimulating things, such as watching TV or being on the computer at night. Reading is a good way to wind down, and get your mind ready for sleep.
Friday Afternoon Dance Party
Combine the three things that stimulate your mind and body the most. Music helps to improve mood, and focus, movement helps alleviate your body temperature and increase adrenalin and oxygen circulation to the brain. If dancing around the office is too much for your company, a few stretches, getting up and walking around, or putting on the headphones, and having your own dance party are all adequate substitutes. I have found that having a standing desk has reduced my afternoon slump tremendously.
Get Some Rays
Take advantage of the natural light that helps regulate our circadian cycle by getting out in the sun for a few minutes. Going for a walk would combine that light with the movement that helps to wake us up.
Plan Group Activities
If you can, plan any group activities for that time when we are all getting drowsy. One of the things that enhance that sleepy feeling is boredom. If you have activities that involve stimulating conversations or interesting ideas, plan them in the afternoon, when you will need that stimulation the most. On the other hand, if you know a meeting is going to be monotonous, plan it away from the afternoon mental crash.
The afternoon slump can be much worse on Friday when we are so close to the weekend, and wrapping up the week’s loose ends, but there is hope for those of us who suffer from the mind numbing body clock blues. It just takes knowing how your body works, getting plenty of sleep, light, and movement to keep us as energized and eager from morning until that clock strikes five.
The inability to concentrate at work could be more that just the time of day. If you are finding it generally hard to get up in the morning or maybe even hard to actually turn your mind off and get to sleep at night you may benefit from discussing things with a counselor. Many people are going through stressful events, or even work itself is stressful. The ability to talk-it-out and feel supported can help to bring back joy into the day and allow for more cohesiveness work environment.
"How Your Body Clock Affects Sleep—And How to Reset It." Helpguide.org. Collaboration with Harvard Medical Publications, n.d. Web. 21 July 2013.