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Why do we feel tired and sleepy by noon?

It is post lunch hour at the office. You are staring intently at your computer screen, but it is becoming hard to control the yawn and even harder to keep the eyes open. The sound of the clock ticking has a mystical hypnotising affect and at that moment, it is not the report, deadline or the lingering boss you are thinking about but a few moments of a blissful nap.

afternoon tiredness or feeling sleepyMany people call this the mid-day tiredness syndrome or the afternoon dip syndrome. Some in India also fathom that the culprit is the rice they had for lunch and make a mental note to gruel their wife on why she had the audacity to pack the delicious biryani yet again for lunch. While an overdose of rice may surely make you feel lethargic, the urge to retire to bed even when the sun is shining its brightest, is not an Indian rice eaters problem alone, but something that is gripping more and more people across the world.

The reason for the problem is the hectic-stressful-sleep deprived-modern-life.

The Science behind the Sluggishness

Scientifically speaking the afternoon sluggishness is quite a natural phenomenon. All living organisms need to work but they also need to rest to give their tired limbs some moments to rejuvenate and bounce back to action. Experts believe that in each 24 hour period there are two time phases around 2.00 am and 2.00 pm when our biological clock automatically rings the alarm for going to bed. If you can afford to listen to this alarm and lie down, the body recuperates from the activities of the day and become recharged. But most people chasing deadlines and scheduling every second of their day, just cannot afford to listen to this nap time body alarm any more.

You are a Human not a Robot

The shopkeeper who pulls his shutter down at 1.00 pm precisely for a mid-day nap is much more health conscious than a professional working in a multinational who has to run for an important meeting at that precise moment. But that is a hazard of a demanding career, and although everyone wishes to gather 40 winks post lunch hour, most can’t because of their robotic life. Interestingly the modern lifestyle choices have only elevated the problem of afternoon lethargy in adults. And the reasons are ample,

  • No time to Sleep – Working overtime, late night shifts or after hour parties, movies on televisions, chatting on the cell phone till wee hours of the morning are all modern enemies of sleep. When you sleep late, get up early, the body does not feel rested enough and gets terribly tired by noon.
  • No time to Relax – Will the consignment reach in time? Will you get a promotion or a hike? Will the client like your sales pitch? Will the project be a success? There are innumerable questions, worries and anxieties always flooding your brain at all hours and when you rest with a brain full of problems, it has no choice but to keep functioning even when it is too tired. The result, high blood pressure, tired limbs and a lethargic frame of mind.
  • No time for breakfast – It has been said a thousand times by a thousand experts that breakfast is the most essential meal of the day, because it helps your body gain energy for the entire day’s work. But most people tend to ignore this important meal. It not only leads to tiredness, you tend to overeat at lunch and ultimately feel all the more tired by noon.
  • No time for Play – For the human body the workout is as important as work. Any activity be it walking, jogging, playing or swimming gives the body time to mobilise all organs and stay fit. But again most people just can’t seem to schedule an activity in their daily routine. The constant slouching on the desk, only makes the body more lazy and tired.

Wakeful Ideas

If you cannot grab a bed for a quick afternoon nap, the next best thing is to conquer the sleep and that can be done this way,

  • Eat a healthy breakfast so that the body has enough energy to sustain the pressures of the day.
  • Join a gym, yoga classes or walk in the mornings. That gives your body a more healthy beginning and keeps it fitter all through the day.
  • Avoid too much coffee or tea especially from morning till noon. The caffeine is not good for health and it also makes you feel more anxious.
  • Eat a balanced lunch including all the major food groups. Dal, roti, vegetable, salad, curd is a good option. Avoid greasy pizzas as inviting as they may look.
  • Sleep well. At night try to sleep strictly at a certain time. If you have problem going to sleep try having hot milk or reading a book. Make sure though that the book is not work related.
  • Snack on fruits and not potato chips. The chips will only add to the stomach bulge and make you more sluggish.

If you still feel bored and sleepy at noon, here are some other tricks,

  • Take a post lunch walk. Even circling your office building may be helpful.
  • Distract your mind from work by sharing a joke with a colleague or browsing interesting sites. But beware that these distractions remain minute breaks and not the only thing you do at work!
  • Get an energy drink. Often your body may feel tired because of lack of energy and this might recharge it instantly.
  • If you treat your body like a machine, even that needs regualr oiling and servicing. Therefore, give your body the rest it needs and say good bye to afternoon lethargy.

Image credit MC Quinn via cc/Flickr

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5 Responses

  1. it a very good article. i always get the sleep during afternoon hours after lunch and i don’t take my Breakfast too. Now i will take care of my Breakfast and try to control my sleep. Thank you.

    • That is a great decision Rudra. Never skip breakfast and you will feel and see the difference yourself. I am glad the article could help.

  2. thanks Padmini, Simple excercise like strolling after each meal do make a lot of sense and who can deny the benefit of sleeping…..:)

  3. atula, i agree to so many things that you’ve written on this page. I do practice taking a stroll after I have a good lunch. and ya a good night’s sleep combined with exercise kicks out afternoon sluggishness well. I have noticed that work for our patients also well.