All-Day Alertness

Dear, Anita,

I seem to notice a productivity slump every morning around 10:30. Another co-worker gets sleepy right after lunch, and my officemate hits a wall around 3:30 p.m.  Do you have any ideas on how to combat our various crash times?

Tired_Worker_14716631_SmallDear, Sid the Sloth and Friends,

Everyone’s internal clock is different. So you’ll each want to take advantage of your own circadian rhythm to plan to work on your most difficult tasks at your individual peak times. A morning java jolt may get you started, but for sustained energy throughout the day, look at the following four factors.

1)      To Sleep Perchance to Dream

Getting enough shut-eye at night is critical to maintaining productivity throughout your workday. WebMD claims that reducing nighttime sleep by 1-1/2 hours results in a 32% reduction in daytime alertness. Can you imagine getting only 2/3 of your work done tomorrow? Hit the pillow on time tonight.

Borrow an idea from the Spanish and take a siesta – or as we call it here in the states, a power nap! Granted, most offices don’t have spaces conducive to sleeping. According to, our bodies get tired after about eight hours of being awake, so the best time of day for napping is somewhere between 2-4 p.m. Be sure not to go over 10-20 minutes or you’ll end up feeling even groggier.

2)      Eat and Run
When you have a lot on your plate workwise, maintaining a proper diet around the clock will benefit your efficiency at the office. Harvard Medical School is a proponent of smaller regular meals supplemented with a healthy snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon to boost energy (this plan may have the added bonus of weight loss).

Have breakfast – but opt for whole grains, not refined carbs like sugary cereals. A couple of hours after breakfast, your body has absorbed its breakfast and blood sugar levels dip, causing the mid-morning slump. But don’t let a diagnosis of low blood sugar send you to the coffee shop for one of those frou-frou drinks full of refined sugar. Have a quick snack of carbohydrates, protein, and fat (think veggies with hummus and pita bread or a few handfuls of trail mix).

For lunch, avoid sugar and flour and opt for a non-supersized low-carb, high-protein meal to avoid the Thanksgiving-esque desire for a post-meal sofa. Omega-3s found in fatty fish such as tuna and salmon are great brain food to combat fuzzy thinking. Foods high in iron enable the body to produce hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body for energy. For that mid-afternoon snack, avoid the candy (although dark chocolate may improve brain function) and choose a piece of fruit or whole-grain crackers.

3)      Work Up a Thirst

Tired_Water_Cooler11855441_SmallYou may not be out running 26 miles, but marathon desk sessions require liquid fortification too. Sleepiness and headaches can indicate dehydration, so be sure to quench your body’s H20 requirement. Many people believe that caffeinated beverages are diuretic, negating the fluid intake. Coffee aficionados, rejoice! The National Institutes of Health could find no published support for fluid loss after consumption of caffeine-containing beverages. Caffeine after 2 p.m., however, can affect your night’s sleep, according to The Sleep Doctor, Michael J. Breus, PhD.

4)      Step it Up

People who exercised during their workday were 23 percent more productive than when they didn’t exercise, according to the International Journal of Workplace Health Management. You may not be able to squeeze in a full workout on your lunch break, but even a quick stretch can boost your spirits after hours hunched over your desk. See My Job is a Pain in the Neck – Literally for some quick desk stretches. Consider a stand-up desk. claims that standing increases energy in addition to the side benefits of toning muscles, improving posture, and increasing blood flow.  Regardless of your desk situation, if your job keeps you at your desk for a solid eight hours, get up and take occasional breaks. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign discovered that brief diversions vastly improve focus.

So, tomorrow at 10:15 a.m., I expect you to get up, make a water or coffee run, walk around the block, and curl up under your desk for an eight-minute power nap. Just don’t do it on the down-low like George Costanza on Seinfeld:

Readers: How do you combat dips in your energy during the workday?

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Janice
    Sep 30, 2014 @ 13:49:14

    Great tips for a healthy lifestyle!


  2. Karen Taylor
    Sep 30, 2014 @ 09:32:54

    Awesome article. Thanks for these wonderful tips.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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