The afternoon slump is a tough problem for most of us, and freelancers are no exception. In fact, working from home can have its own post-prandial pitfalls — namely, the sofa. While there’s nothing wrong with catching a quick 20-minute snooze, especially when tight deadlines mean working late into the night, there are a few other things I like to try first.
What is the 2pm slump?
Understanding what’s behind the drop in energy levels can help you deal with it. Part of it is just biology — your circadian rhythm causes a rise in sleepiness in the afternoon, and something called sleep/wake homeostasis kicks you with sleepiness after being awake for a long time. These both work together to make sure you get enough sleep, so getting enough sleep the night before is one way to preempt the afternoon nap.
Aside from just getting enough sleep — something that’s not always possible during a busy period — you can also do any of the following:
Sitting still for a long time will make anyone sleepy. Sunlight and activity can help you wake up a bit, and has the added bonus of improving your mood and your health. Even a quick 10-minute walk around the block will often do the trick.
Go somewhere else
Just a change of scene may make the difference. Pack up your laptop or page proofs and head to a cafe, or even just another part of your house. If you can’t work away from your office, take a break anyway. Turn on some happy music, go load the dishwasher, switch to a new task, or just get away for a minute. Don’t click over to your email or the internet for a break — refresh yourself by engaging your brain in something completely different.
Drink some water
While you’re at that cafe, get a big glass of water to go with your coffee. Being dehydrated can make you sluggish, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Drinking plenty of water has the additional benefit of forcing you to get up every couple of hours, too.
Put on a sweater
Dips in body temperature can also trigger sleepiness, as a mid-afternoon core temperature drop triggers the release of melatonin as part of the body’s circadian rhythm.
Step away from the sugar
If you do head to a cafe, skip the muffins. Carbohydrates — especially at lunch — can lead to the dreaded sugar crash, when your blood sugar levels spike then fall. Try complex carbs and protein instead.
If all else fails …
Go for that nap. Keep it short — 20 minutes or so — to avoid feeling groggy afterwards. Try drinking a cup of coffee or tea right before lying down, to sync waking with the caffeine taking effect. And go to sleep at a reasonable hour tonight.