We all know what a midday slump feels like: heavy eyelids, lack of focus, even a bit of yawning. You yearn to take a nap, but the more socially acceptable solution is to get a caffeine fix. The trouble is, chugging down a large iced coffee may be causing a cycle of poor sleep habits, which—you guessed it—can cause midday slumps.
According to a study conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, drinking caffeine up to six hours before bedtime could disrupt sleep and reduce shut-eye by more than one hour. So, you’re actually better off in the long-run taking that power nap before or after lunch.
Not much of a daytime napper? Here are six additional caffeine-free strategies to help boost your body and mind when that midday slump hits.
1. Inhale And Exhale
If stress is the main culprit behind your afternoon fatigue, try some deep-breathing exercises, recommends Jessica Marcus, M.S., R.D., health coach at Parsley Health.
“People who practice the Wim Hof Method claim this type of breathing can fight depression, boost the immune system, and serve as an instant pick-me-up,” she says.
To try it: Inhale deeply through the belly and chest, then exhale. Do this in short bursts 30 to 40 times. On your final inhale, let the air out and hold there until you feel the urge to breathe again. Then, take in one more deep breath, expanding your belly and lungs, hold for 15 seconds, and release.
A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that breathing techniques like this have the ability to significantly lower cortisol (a.k.a. the stress hormone) levels, as well as enhance focus and concentration. The authors noted that this finding backs up previous research that concluded breathing practices to be a possible remedy for fatigue, anxiety, and emotional exhaustion due to job burnout.
Sipping some H2O can also give you a natural energy boost when that midday slump rolls around. In one study published in PLoS One, researchers from the U.S. and France evaluated how daily water intake affected physical and emotional responses. Volunteers who initially drank between two and four liters a day and then limited their water intake experienced decreased vigor and activity. Meanwhile, participants who first consumed minimal amounts of water and later increased their intake reported less sleepiness and overall fatigue.
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Yet, too much of a good thing isn’t always better. “Low energy can be a sign of dehydration, but sometimes overdoing it with water can paradoxically dehydrate us,” explains Marcus. “This is because too much water can leach precious electrolytes and increase fluid losses.” She suggests drinking half your body weight in ounces of water each day and adding an electrolyte powder to your afternoon glass (or tumbler).
3. Sip This Latte
Not all lattes are created equal, which is why Marcus suggests making yourself a hot or cold maca latte in the afternoon. Grown in the high plateaus of the Andes Mountains, this root has been used in homeopathic medicine for at least 3,000 years.
“Maca powder is a pulverized root that has a vanilla-like flavor and can easily be incorporated into a smoothie, oatmeal, or a warm beverage,” she says. “And unlike coffee, maca is naturally caffeine-free.”
Though it may be free of caffeine, maca can still energize you. “While human studies are limited, research on animals suggests that maca has energizing, mood-boosting properties,” Marcus says.
Her preferred recipe? “I like to mix one teaspoon of maca powder, a dash of cinnamon, black pepper, cacao powder, and a little vanilla extract in either hot almond or coconut milk.” Drink up!
4. Listen To Soft Music
Never underestimate the power of the right music. According to other research published in PLoS One, people who listened to relaxing instrumental folk music while completing an hour of “fatigue-inducing” computer tasks after abstaining from alcohol and caffeine for 24 hours experienced significantly fewer signs of mental fatigue. Meanwhile, those who completed these tasks in silence felt more distracted, anxious, irritable, and sleepy. Take that, midday slump sleepiness!
5. Grab A Protein-Packed Snack
When all else fails, grab yourself a protein-rich snack. “Going too long between meals can cause blood sugar to dip, which means your cells aren’t getting the energy they need,” Marcus explains. “So, if you know you typically tank around 3 o’clock, plan for a snack that contains about seven to 10 grams of protein, like a hard-boiled egg and carrots or some nut butter and a handful of berries.”
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More food for thought: You’ll also want to make sure you incorporate enough protein on your plate throughout the rest of the day in order to keep blood sugar levels stable, since highs and lows can cause fatigue. “Protein needs vary, but for most of us, 20 grams per meal is a good starting place,” she says.
6. Chew Gum
Yep, you read that right. In a study published in Nutritional Neuroscience, chewing gum was shown to increase alertness. We recommend Spry all-natural, sugar-free chewing gum, but feel free to treat yourself to some Juicy Fruit once in a while. All things in moderation!