5 Sleep Hacks For People Who Always Get The Afternoon Slump
The afternoon crash or slump is familiar to everybody who's ever felt like crawling under their desk to sleep at 2:30 p.m. Whether you use energy bars or a caffeine boost to power through, go for a walk or just try to focus on the screen without your eyelids drooping, the afternoon slump is a common part of life — but for some of us, it's more difficult than others. Instead of trying to deal with it when it happens, though you can try these sleep hacks for people who get tired in the afternoons. After all, the foundation for an energized day starts with your sleep the night before.
A certain amount of energy drop in the afternoons is unavoidable due to the mechanisms of the body's internal clock, a system of hormonal signals that dictate when you feel energized or sleepy. Your alertness throughout the day is driven by two things: a chemical called adenosine, which makes us sleepy, and internal circadian rhythms that keep us awake. Circadian alertness, explains Dr. Brandon Peters for Verywell Health, "increases throughout the day to keep us awake and counteract the increasing levels of adenosine. There is a shoulder, or dip, in this pattern in the early afternoon, typically seven to nine hours after waking up. When the alerting signal dips, the underlying sleepiness shows itself, and we feel sleepy."
However, while a little fatigue is understandable, a lot is likely traceable back to other habits, particularly at nighttime. Here's how to use your sleep to banish heavy afternoon fatigue.
1. Figure Out Your Best Sleep Patterns
Contrary to what you may have heard, not everybody has the same need for sleep or the same natural bedtime. "People are genetically predisposed to a particular 'chronotype'," sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus explained to Fast Company. "Based on the research, everyone’s sleep habits can be broken up into the following chronotypes: lions, bears, dolphins, or wolves. When you know what your chronotype is, you can usually predict when your mid-afternoon fatigue will hit. For example, lions tend to drowse off around 1 p.m., but wolves start to fade around 3 p.m."
The vast majority of the population, according to Breus's research, are bears, or people whose internal clocks roughly follow the rise and fall of the sun. The onset of their drowsiness occurs about ten hours after sunrise, or around 3 p.m. Figure out your sleep profile using their descriptions, and that will give you information on how you might be accidentally sleeping in ways that don't match your natural instincts — causing tiredness.
2. Let Go Of Daily Stress In Bed
Once the lights are actually out, you need to maximize your sleep efficiency, which means spent as much time as possible sleeping as opposed to lying awake. To help you fall asleep, experts recommend letting go of the stresses of the day. "A common cause of insomnia is fretting about problems while lying in bed," says Better Health Victoria. "Experiment with different relaxation techniques until you find one or two that work for you — for example, you could think of a restful scene, focus on your breathing, or silently repeat a calming mantra or phrase." Breathing exercises or mindfulness before you go to bed may help you to drift off more quickly, increasing your sleep quantity and quality.
3. Have Well-Judged Naps
If the slump hits and it's powerful, there's significant research to back up the idea of napping to get through it. "Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents," writes the National Sleep Foundation. "Naps can increase alertness in the period directly following the nap and may extend alertness a few hours later in the day." Wait until the slump has well and truly hit, so that you fall to sleep pretty quickly, and wake up within 20 to 40 minutes to prevent entering deep REM sleep, which will make you groggy and sluggish when you wake.
4. Don't Stay In Bed In The Mornings
An extra 10 minutes in the morning with the warm covers and a few daydreams? Not so fast. “The bed is meant for one main thing: sleeping. If you stay in bed, then it gives your mind the feeling that it’s time to sleep and not start your day," Raj Dasgupta MD told Health24. Get up when your body wakes you up, rather than staying in bed checking your phone or attempting to get back to sleep. The risk, Dasgupta explained, is that you'll fall into deep REM sleep, miss your alarm and end up fatigued in the afternoon.
5. Use Science To Hack Your Sleep
Fatigue in the afternoons points to the possibility that your sleep isn't restful, and you'll need to do some investigation to figure out why. Are you going to sleep and waking up at poor times? "Conduct an experiment, moving your bedtime around until you wake up naturally just before your morning alarm," Melanie Pinola wrote for LifeHacker. "You can also use an app like Sleepyti.me to calculate the best time to fall asleep, based on your sleep cycles. The theory is if you wake up in between deep sleep cycles instead of in the middle of one, you’ll feel more refreshed and alert instead of groggy and cranky."
If you have a sleep tracker, Pinola said, it's wise to use what it can tell you. Patterns of wakefulness in the night? Snoring or sleep apnea? Alarm hitting in the middle of deep REM sleep? Figure it out and you'll be able to take the next steps to smooth the way to better sleep.
Afternoon sleepiness can be down to a number of different things — working too hard in the mornings, for instance, or too much alcohol the night before. However, if the cause is rooted in your sleep, a bit of ingenuity and patience can help you ferret out the cause and get through the afternoon slump with only the hint of a yawn.