Energy drain...
April 28, 2010 3:06 PM   Subscribe

Every afternoon starting from 2 to about 4 p.m. I find myself exhausted beyond belief. I need tips or solutions to keep my energy up during those two hours so that I can actually *do* things instead of just enter some brain/body fog state where I can't even spell my own name right.

Starting around 2 my body just starts to ache and all my energy begins to slowly ebb away. It is all I can do to keep moving and finish whatever I need to during the day. Around 4 p.m. I start to get my second wind and can power through on til 10 when I go to bed.

I do get 8 - 9 hours of sleep every night. Regular bedtime maintained on the weekends. So it isn't lack of sleep and I'm hesitant to add in a nap (even if I had time where I could).

Any tips or foods or anything at all that can help me fix this?

Note: I do have a bad diet pop addiction if that factors into it any. Otherwise it is one cup of tea around noon to warm me up.
posted by kanata to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Are you eating breakfast and/or lunch? If so, what are you eating (i.e., are you eating a balance of carbs and proteins, or is it mostly just one or the other?)
posted by scody at 3:10 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you eating your lunch just before 2?

It's very common to feel sleepy after lunch.
posted by royalsong at 3:11 PM on April 28, 2010

I found that when I eliminated flour products from my lunch I had tons of energy to get me through the rest of the day. I connected the dots after slowly realizing that eating something like a sandwich or mac and cheese or a slice of pizza for lunch resulted in my falling asleep at my desk about 3 in the afternoon, while having soup or salad, etc. did not.
posted by iconomy at 3:12 PM on April 28, 2010

For breakfast I usually have a bowl of cereal w/ some dried apricots. Lunch is usually around 11 or 12 and mostly consists (lately, I'm in a rut) of a bowl of spinach w/ feta cheese and a fat free dressing + a sprout/cheese/chicken sandwich on pita bread.
posted by kanata at 3:16 PM on April 28, 2010

I have this problem and the only solution for me is to limit my morning caffeine to a cup of coffee and either have a very light lunch or just snack throughout the day. Any "normal" lunch, even a sandwich, and the sleepies come back.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:16 PM on April 28, 2010

Definitely look at what you're having for breakfast/lunch. I find that if I eat a high-protein, low-carb lunch then I don't end up wiped out mid-afternoon. I also cut out anything sweet after lunch and that helped my energy levels a lot.
posted by corey flood at 3:19 PM on April 28, 2010

Nthing the suggestions about food. One other thing to consider: any medications you're taking? For instance, when I take 24-hour allergy meds in the morning (even non-drowsy ones), I can get exhausted right around 2pm.
posted by wyzewoman at 3:23 PM on April 28, 2010

I used to have this problem daily, but solved it by eating less at lunch. Maybe I cut out about 200 or 300 calories. Same carbs/fats/proteins as before, just less of it.
posted by Mountain Goatse at 3:23 PM on April 28, 2010

Maybe add in some small snacks to keep the energy level up, like peanut butter on celery, or hummus and carrots. I also found that keeping a container of trail mix with healthy ingredients on hand was good to keep me focused during times when I thought I was going to fall asleep on my desk.
posted by rachaelfaith at 3:32 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am on an anti-depressant that is known for the tiredness side effect so I suppose that could play a factor. Good reminder.

I am leery to have snacks on hand because I'm trying to lose weight and have to fight hard the bad habit I have of mindless eating at the desk. Or anytime I'm in front of the computer.
posted by kanata at 3:40 PM on April 28, 2010

Anecdata: I'd been feeling a bit too tired mid-day considering the amount of sleep I was getting, and had some blood work done. I discovered that I have low iron stores (hemoglobin levels were great, but very low serum ferritin, and there is some evidence that that can lead to fatigue.) Taking iron supplements seems to have helped (although I don't rule out the placebo effect here.)

Which is to say: if you are getting 8-9 hours of sleep and still feeling fatigued during the day, you may want to get blood work done to rule out certain biological causes.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:53 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you have to take your lunch at 11 or 12?

When I worked in an office, I would get exhausted if I had to sit there from 12 to 5 straight. I started taking my lunch at 1 or 2pm, and I felt much more energetic.

Do you get regular exercise? My energy levels have spiked ever since I started working out three days a week.
posted by mmmbacon at 4:02 PM on April 28, 2010

This is me. And it gets to the point of my body aching terribly because I'm so tired. But yet, around 4 pm I get a second wind as well.

I've adjusted my diet, low carb at lunch, high protein. I don't drink caffeinated beverages at all. Still I feel like I'm dying at 2 pm. I'd say this happens 4-5 days a week. I've had blood work and nothing significant was found. I don't take medication. I have noticed that this tends to happen if I'm outside earlier in the day. I live in AZ and I think the combination of the heat and bright sunlight just suck the energy out of me.

I have no advice as to how to get this not to happen (sorry). But how I deal with it is that I don't have anything planned for that time . . . because I wouldn't be able to do it anyway. So, from 2-4 is my "nap" time. This is doable because I am a stay-at-home mom. Sometimes all it takes for me to get my second wind earlier than 4 pm is to take a 15 minute nap. Sometimes I don't nap, but instead read, or watch tv. I just need a break and sorry at times it is a 2 hour break.
posted by Sassyfras at 4:11 PM on April 28, 2010

When ever I get like that during the day, I chew gum. I started doing it because I read an article that it helps improve blood flow to the brain. I find it to be very helpful when I need to focus in mid-afternoon.

I can't find my exact original reference, but based on this article, it improves memory. CNN sums up some reasons to chew gum here.
posted by chiefthe at 4:15 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's normal to have varying energy at different times of the day.

As opposed to (or in conjunction with) throttling through it, can you recognize that you have lower energy, not worry about it so much, and find a more mindless or routine task to accomplish during this time?
posted by asuprenant at 4:24 PM on April 28, 2010

This works for me: I get up at 5:30 (ugh, I know), have coffee, eat breakfast around 9:30 (oatmeal), eat lunch around 1 (salad with protein and a variety of veggies--potato chips are okay too but nothing with bread), and then I find I can get through the rest of my afternoon pretty well.

The key for me was the later breakfast and lighter lunch than I used to have, with much fewer carbs.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:24 PM on April 28, 2010

A quick, brisk walk? A 20 minute head-down nap at your desk? A cup of coffee? A cup of mint tea?
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 4:27 PM on April 28, 2010

I get the same thing - I haven't futzed much with my eating habits (yet), but I do find that it helps to get outside for a bit. That, and to recognize that I'm not good for much in the middle of the afternoon. So I try to schedule in the kinds of tasks that can accommodate the sleepies. Oddly enough, meetings often fall into that category, maybe just because I have to interact with other human beings.
posted by epersonae at 4:45 PM on April 28, 2010

My new GP-- whom I am not-- ordered up a vitamin D check for me and said her practice is to give everyone an initial test, as "people get aches and pains and fatigue when their D is low."

Your GP, presumably, could check that for you along with all the usual suspects like iron and thyroid stuff.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:33 PM on April 28, 2010

I used to have this problem and started keeping a journal of what I ate and how I felt throughout the day. It turned out to be related to wheat gluten. When I eliminated that, I stopped feeling tired after meals. Try the journal thing and see what you discover.
posted by granted at 7:48 PM on April 28, 2010

How long has this been happening? For your entire adult life? And is your diet pop caffeinated?

I echo above posters' advice as follows: drink plenty of water, see if you can go outside for a brisk bike, walk or other bit of physical change/exertion around 1 or 1:30 (so, after lunch but before the real tiredness wave hits), and try to schedule mindless physical tasks for when you know you're brainless. Also, try listening to energetic music.

I used to go to the local arcade and play Dance Dance Revolution for twenty minutes when I felt slothful in the afternoon. I think the improvements to my afternoon performance were worth it.
posted by brainwane at 8:02 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

What are your specific wakeup and bedtimes? And does this happen no matter whether you're working, puttering around the house, traveling, or hanging out with friends?

For those times when you really need to wake up:

Sociology lecturer Andrew Creighton told us that when he was exhausted and needed to stay alert for a meeting or a drive, he'd take a few minutes beforehand to watch a certain scene from Alien.

I took this to heart and sometimes watched the last five minutes of The Blair Witch Project before a 3pm class.
posted by brainwane at 8:08 PM on April 28, 2010

I don't think this is actually a medical condition. More one of those "being a human who is slowly aging" condition. This is after all what drives the tradition of the siesta.

I work from home, and among my peer group of freelancers 2-4PM is known as "The Danger Zone." As in, "I made a huge mistake by taking a break to do some reading during The Danger Zone, and I'm only now waking up."
posted by ErikaB at 9:21 PM on April 28, 2010

The cure for lethargy is the handstand.

I am not joking.

When you feel tired, go practice handstand for a couple of minutes. Practicing against a wall will give the same benefit as in the middle of the room. Find a nice sturdy wall, kick up against it, hold for a few minutes while breathing deeply.

If handstand is intimidating, try another inversion: Elbowstand, headstand, shoulderstand, legs-up-the-wall, etc. If these postures are unfamiliar, try a yoga class!
posted by satori_movement at 5:50 AM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

There's a lot of research that coffee is good for you. I drink 2 -3 mugs of coffee throughout the morning, and it helps fight fatigue. I've been diagnosed w/ chronic fatigue and other stuff, and coffee is a really big help. No coffee after about 1 p.m. or it may affect sleep at bedtime. Many of the recommendations above will help, also.
posted by theora55 at 7:22 AM on April 29, 2010

In addition to all of the above, make sure that you are sleeping well at night. Do you wake up refreshed? Do you snore, gasp, gurgle, kick your legs, or wake up feeling at all unrefreshed or with a headache? If so, you might want to get a sleep test just to rule out things like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. If your night-time sleep is of poor quality, that will impact how you feel the next day.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:13 AM on April 29, 2010

This has been going on for the last three-four months and happens everywhere. At work. Out and about on my own etc.. And yeah, my pop has caffeine. I'm trying to replace it with water slowly as I don't have a natural affinity for the taste of water.

Thanks for all the suggestions. It looks like I'll play around w/ my diet some. Maybe eat a later lunch but add in some mid morning snacks w/ protein and see about getting some blood work done next time I'm at the doctor just in case.
posted by kanata at 8:15 AM on April 29, 2010

There are other past questions and answers here about how to make oneself drink more water. For example, a very light dose of Emergen'C or other powdered & flavored fizzy vitamin supplement may help you get over the bland taste and texture.

What else changed in your life approximately four months ago? Did any new sources of nighttime noise or discomfort start, thus reducing the quality of your sleep? Did your bedtime or exercise schedule shift? Is that when you went on the antidepressant or started dieting?
posted by brainwane at 4:55 PM on April 29, 2010

Hmmm...I've pondered it and the only thing that has happened really in the last four months was that I've developed a sound sleeping schedule finally. Before then I had problems sleeping through the night (always waking up w/ nightmares, or crying) but since then I've scrubbed up my sleep hygiene and it has been good.

I sleep soundly for 8 hours. Wake up before my alarm feeling refreshed and energized which is a first in my life. Before I was getting 4-5 hours. So maybe I am oversleeping? Not sure about that.

Now I shut off the computer at 8 and make sure I am in bed at 9:45. Usually fast asleep by 10. Rarely 10:30. Up at 6:30 (or 7 if I laze about to alarm).

New antidepressant started 2 weeks ago. Diet about one month ago. Walk one hour a day (that started a month ago too).
posted by kanata at 6:59 PM on April 29, 2010

I made some of the above suggestions and have found my energy coming back slowly. What has made the difference are the best answers I marked above.

Specifically eating a bigger breakfast, a small snack mid-morning and pushing my lunch back until around 1:30 - 2:00 and making it lighter. A smaller lunch has freed up time for me to at least circle the block a couple of times during lunch time so that I have a hint of exercise to push me thru the rest of the day.

Thanks to all that responded. It has been a great help.
posted by kanata at 1:23 PM on May 12, 2010

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