10 ways to best biology
That feeling like you need to curl up under your desk and have a nap mid-afternoon is hard-wired into our brains. It’s part of our natural circadian rhythm. Humans are biphasic – we are supposed to have two sleeps a day, and one of them is in the middle of the afternoon. Our core body temperature drops between 2pm and 4pm, which triggers melatonin, the naturally occurring chemical that makes us want to sleep. Our bodies are programmed to nap mid-afternoon, and that’s why 3pm is such a drag.
However, if you can’t have a 20-minute afternoon siesta, there are some things you can do to ensure you fire on all cylinders the entire afternoon.
10. Chew peppermint gum
Peppermint is one of those smells that improves attention and makes you work more effectively – so either keep a small essential oil bottle to take a whiff of when you feel sluggish, or chew some gum to kick-start your brain.
9. Look at pictures of cats
Or dogs, if that’s your thing. Researchers at Hiroshima University found that looking at pictures of baby animals improved productivity, helping people to finish tasks faster and more accurately.
8. Don’t eat carbs for lunch (or a big meal)
That white rice might not bother you at night, but if your body thinks its time for a nap anyway, that post-carb crash is just going to make it a whole lot worse. Instead of pasta or a heap of bread, eat protein, fats and high quality slow-burning carbs.
Also avoid sugar in general, it gives you a temporary high and then dumps you down, leaving you more tired than you were before.
7. Don’t forget breakfast
In terms of general all-day energy, remember to eat breakfast. It keeps you going until midday, and you won’t be tempted to over-eat at lunch. And while that morning coffee is vital to switch your brain on, anything more than about six coffees a day could be problematic.
6. Go outside
Sunlight is a wonderful thing. Go for a walk around the block for a triple-whammy of goodness. You’ll get vitamin D, the sunlight helps to regulate that sleep-wake cycle, and exercise gives your brain a burst of energy.
5. Drink water
Being even a little bit dehydrated can make you feel tired. If you find yourself yawning, drink some water or take a break for a cup of green tea. Failing that, unless your makeup was completely on point today, splash some cold water on your face.
4. Get a good nights’ sleep
This might feel obvious, but a good nights’ sleep means you’re well-rested for the next day. This is easier said than done at times, with life so busy. A few tips for good sleep:
- Limit screen time before bed.
- Wear blue-light blocking computer glasses so your brain produces melatonin on schedule.
- Don’t drink coffee or other stimulants in the evening.
3. Leave the simple fun tasks until the afternoon
Start the day with the stuff you don’t want to do. It’s the time of day that your brain is sharpest, so schedule big or complex tasks that require more concentration. Work with your body, not against the natural cycle. Put aside the afternoon for meetings, less important tasks, and things that don’t require as much concentration.
2. Take a nap
It might not be possible for everyone, but sometimes a 10 to 20-minute nap is all you need. Anything longer than 30 minutes will result in drowsiness, but a power nap will energise and revive you. If you can sneak off for a quick nap, do it. Comfy couch in in the tea room? Done.
This is the ultimate 3pm, mood busting, brain kick-start method.
Go for a walk. After a 20-minute walk, the brain is more engaged and active than before, making you more productive and alert.
If you can’t crowbar yourself away from your desk for twenty minutes, find a quiet corner of the office for some exercise. Research shows that exercise triggers activity in the brain, waking you up.
Can you take a walking meeting? Grab your colleague and head outside for a few laps around the block together, and get some work done at the same time.
Even 20 star-jumps in the cafeteria is better than nothing at all. In fact, star-jumps could be the best thing to do because as well as sparking up that sluggish brain, the act of jumping releases endorphins, decreasing your stress levels and making you happier.
Those are the top ten ways you can easily ditch that evolutionary hangover, and avoid that mid-afternoon slump. Try a few and see what works for you, or tell us below if you have another 3pm wakeup hack.