When at work, do you sometimes feel sluggish, find it hard to concentrate and lose focus? Chances are it happened at about three o'clock and you weren't the only one going through it. It's called the afternoon slump and it hits us all.
So what causes this and what's the best way to get through it?
When it hits, your first reaction is probably to get up from your chair, have a yawn and a good old stretch. But that doesn't work. There's always plan B a trip to the vending machine for a sugar hit. Instant cure-all, right? Wrong!
"If you drink coffee or chocolate it tends to drop your energy a little bit later. So you might feel better at half-past-three, but by the time four o'clock comes down, you either need another cup of coffee or another piece of chocolate," says Gaye Davies, a naturopath who teaches at the Nature Care College in Sydney.
So is there any way at all we can we beat the slump?
We've enlisted the help from four hard-working employees at ninemsn:
- Georgia is an associate producer. She will test exercise as a way to beat the slump.
- Luke is a business analyst. He will test the effects of eating healthy food.
- Ainslee is an account manager. She will take ginseng tablets each day.
- Legal counsel Paul will get to sleep away the slump in a spacey looking nap-pod.
Before commencing the test, biomedical engineering student Mark Butlin tested how alert they were via a psycho-motor vigilance test which tests reaction time and gives an indication of how sleepy they each were.
Georgia, Luke, Ainslee and Paul were all tested at 3pm to establish a baseline reaction time. After a week of exercising, eating, sleeping and ginseng-ing, Mark will test each of them and compare the times.
"It's been going well. I've enjoyed getting out of the office for the last few days. It's good to get some fresh air and walk around the city."
According to naturopath Gaye, a workout has a lot going for it. "Exercise is one of the most wonderful things you could do for your energy and the whole function of your body. It's amazing for increasing the blood supply to all of our organs, our digestive organs, our muscles, our brain."
Georgia's biggest problem was fitting it in with the demands of work. "It's hard when things pop up and meetings you have to attend and that sort of thing. So I'm finding the time quite difficult."
Luke: fruit and nuts
Time wasn't a problem for Luke, though his diet therapy meant he didn't need to leave his desk. Luke ate fruit and nuts every day at 3pm and he modified his lunch time diet as well.
"I have noticed a bit of a difference. I feel more alert this afternoon than I did on Monday for sure," says Luke.
"It's really good to include a lot of protein in your lunch, because that gives a long, sustained energy release. And also to have foods that aren't very processed, Gaye says. This could include sushi or a simple salad, which is also effective.
Ainslee: ginseng supplement
"The week's been pretty good. I stuck to taking them every day so it's been pretty good all in all."
Ginseng is what's known as an adaptigen. It's believed to activate every system in your body and increase your energy levels not that Ainslee's felt it: "I haven't really noticed a difference at all."
Our napper Paul was the lucky one. He's got a daily 20-minute kip in a futuristic nap-pod. So how does it feel to officially take your shoes off and wrap yourself in a blanket?
"I'd love to do this every day. It might be a bit difficult to convince my boss that having a nap is a good thing, but I think it's great."
So after a week of testing, Mark Butlin carried out another reaction test on our four volunteers.
- Georgia's first reaction time was 0.246 seconds, while her second reaction time was 0.224 seconds. "So that's an improvement," says Mark.
- Luke's first reaction time was 0.245 seconds and his second reaction time was 0.214 seconds. "So that's a decent increase which is good to see," says Mark. The fruit and nuts diet could be a winner.
- Paul 's first reaction time was 0.293 seconds and his second reaction time was 0.241 seconds. "That's a significant improvement. Well done," says Mark.
- Ainslee's first reaction time was 0.226 while her second reaction time was 0.203 seconds. Ainslee originally didn't notice any difference after her course of ginseng but after an improvement in her results there may be something in that ginseng after all.
Results when compared
- Georgia had a nine percent increase in reaction time
- Ainslee improved by 10 percent with the ginseng
- Luke and his fruit and nuts had the second best improvement with 12 percent
- Paul, our napper, improved by 18 percent
So Paul's the winner by a country mile.
"I'd like to try and carry on with the naps in the afternoon, depending on my workload. But it's certainly led to an increased reaction time, so I'll push for it at work," he says.
Millions around the world have been enjoying the benefits of siesta for hundreds of years. Sleep researchers have identified a dip in our core body temperature rhythm after lunch, so we're physiologically programmed to slow things down and a 20-minute nap is the best way to do it. But if you can't convince the boss, try to mix and match one of our other 3pm strategies they were all effective in their own way.
So sleeping on the job really is good for you. But remember, no more than 20 minutes at a time and don't try to get away with it more than once a day the boss will not be happy!
- Why can winter make you sad? Reduced daylight in winter can cause more than an afternoon slump. It can bring on seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, which can lead to serious depression. It's caused by a lack of sunlight. Fortunately for us, it's more common in the northern hemisphere in places like Scandinavia.