You’re at work and shortly after eating lunch it hits. You’re feeling sleepy, less alert and are craving a nap. Blame it on the post-lunch dip. Although not everyone experiences sleepiness after eating lunch, it’s estimated it affects about 20 percent of the population, as reported by the New York Times. Feeling tired in the afternoon can lead to decreased productivity and mistakes at work. Although partly due to biology, there are some steps you can take to decrease the post-lunch dip.
Feeling sleepy in the afternoon, especially after lunch, is a common occurrence. The post-lunch dip usually occurs due to a combination of factors, such as the following:
In addition to the size of the meal, eating certain foods at lunch may increase the chances afternoon sleepiness will set-in. For example, foods high in sugar, such as cookies, candy and soda, may give you an initial burst of energy, but it only lasts for a short time.
Although you might be tempted to head for the vending machine and have something sweet to pick you up, eating foods high in sugar backfires when it comes to helping you feel alert. Foods high in sugar and certain types of carbohydrates, such as white rice, potatoes and pasta, cause an increase in insulin production. The insulin stimulates production of tryptophan, which increases serotonin levels in the brain and can cause sleepiness.
Choosing certain foods at lunchtime may help combat the post-lunch dip. According to Northwestern University, eating foods high in protein, such as lean meat, eggs and tuna can help fight sleepiness after lunch. The body also needs complex carbohydrates for energy, such as brown rice or beans.
Also, add a little fiber to your lunch, such as whole grain crackers or vegetables. Fiber will help keep insulin levels steady and prevent big spikes in blood sugar. Steady insulin levels reduce large increases in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which can increase sleepiness.
Although you may want to reach for energy drinks or other caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, it may not be your best bet. Drinks that contain caffeine may give you a temporary boost, but it will not last long. After the caffeine wears off, you'll likely feel even more tired than you did before. Plus, there are the numerous side effects of too much caffeine that you need to worry about.
Instead of grabbing a cup of coffee or candy bar to try to wake up, there are other things you can do to fight after lunch fatigue.
The combination of your natural internal clock and eating certain foods at lunch can zap your energy and leave you feeling sleepy after lunch. It’s common to experience the post-lunch dip occasionally, but if you find yourself tried and struggling to stay focused most afternoons after lunch, it may be a problem. Although eating right and avoiding certain foods can help, nothing replaces getting enough rest at night, eating well throughout the day and getting regular exercise.