We’ve all been there. It’s later in the afternoon, lunch is a few hours behind us, and all of a sudden it hits us. We stare blankly at our computer screens trying to get some work done but our efforts are futile. Welcome to the “afternoon slump”.
A slump in energy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Our day is full of ebbs and flows of energy. What can hurt your productivity – at work & at home – is how dramatic these ebbs and flows are and what is causing them. In addition to what is causing them, how we react to our dipping energy levels could be having a larger effect than we care to admit. When we hit that afternoon slump, how many of us are guilty of reaching for an energy drink or taking another trip to the break room for a coffee? Although caffeine isn’t all bad, our use of caffeine can be throwing us off more than we think.
Contrary to popular belief, caffeine does not actually make us less tired. What caffeine is actually doing is masking sleepiness. How is this achieved? By blocking adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a compound in our brain that has the main function of making us feel sleepy. So although caffeine may give the illusion of energy, what’s really happening is a substance blocking feelings of sleepiness. Meaning, if we’re running low on sleep to begin with, caffeine is not necessarily going to improve our performance.
So, what can we do instead of reach for that late afternoon cup of coffee? When it comes to the topic of energy, professional advice can start to sound like a broken record. Although you’ve heard it time and time again, sleep is absolutely the best way to ensure you have the energy levels you need to get through each day.
Before you blurt out “oh, I get enough sleep,” a study by the University of Chicago Medical Center1 shows that people spend way less time sleeping than they actually think they do. The biggest reason? Time spent in bed does not equal restful sleep. TV’s, phones, and other distractions have resulted in people highly overestimating how much sleep they are actually getting each night.
Getting enough sleep is by far the best place to start when you start your quest for higher energy levels. But what other methods can we use for energy that don’t involve caffeine?
Exercise is an often underrated energy boost. Getting your heart rate up each and every day will give your body the energy to get through the day. Although expending energy by working out to get energy seems counterintuitive, studies have proved time and time again that those with a consistent workout schedule tend to have higher energy levels than those with no workout routine or a sporadic workout habit. Utilizing the Allwell.io app to schedule daily exercises is a great way to ensure a consistent workout schedule.
Other energy tips include staying hydrated, well-timed naps, or even something as simple as cold water. Cold showers or even splashing cold water on your face can have a surprising energizing effect.
Before you get the wrong idea, caffeine isn’t all bad. In fact, studies have shown that a daily cup of joe can decrease risk of diabetes, stroke, heart failure, and even some cancers. The biggest factor is timing. Caffeine use in the morning as a pick-me-up can be a great way to get your day started. But overuse throughout the day, particularly as a replacement to restful sleep, is where we can run into problems.
Bottom line: next time you feel tired, take a second to analyze why you might be feeling this way rather than instinctively reaching for some caffeine.
1 University of Chicago Medical Center, 2006 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060703162945.htm#:~:text=Summary%3A,even%20less%20than%20they%20think