Why Do I Get A Mid-Afternoon Crash?

Oct 10, 2019

Dr. Ashley Margeson

Dr. Ashley Margeson


You know that feeling when you’re sitting at your desk, cranking away all of your work, assignments or emails and suddenly a wave of fatigue washes over you like a tidal wave right out of Moana? That mid afternoon crash can stop you in your tracks faster than you realize, and it’s probably a result of a variety of things, not just that you’re in dire need of another cup of coffee. 

In fact, the mid afternoon crash is a direct result of diet, sleep cycles and something known as cortisol. Your body’s natural energy curve is something known as the circadian rhythm, it rises and falls in a 24 cycle, but within that 24 hour cycle is 3 hour chunks that drive our energy production. Your 2.30pm mid afternoon crash is generally a result of your cortisol rising too high in the morning due to external factors (cough cough coffee) and a carbohydrate rich breakfast, which wears off about 6 hours after you consume it. That puts us… yup, right around that mid afternoon crash time. 

Your body’s natural sleep cycle 

Because we tend to wake up earlier than the sun for work (especially when autumn and winter come around), you should have a natural dip around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. The north american society is built around people being as productive as possible during all waking hours, but when you start to look at many european or south american cultures you see the siesta at the forefront of the workday schedule. Crank out 3-4 hours of work in the morning, head to lunch, have a quick cat nap and then back to the office for a few more hours. 

Your sleep is critical 

Your circadian rhythm is’t only controlled by cortisol… it’s controlled by another hormone known as melatonin. That’s right, the pill you take before bed to help you sleep. Well, to change everything you’ve ever thought about melatonin, it’s not actually supposed to make you sleepy. Melatonin is a signal from your brain to your body that you should be getting ready for bed. A slight body temperature drop also accompanies the sleepy feeling (which is why you always reach for your sweater in the afternoon!) 

Diet plays a HUGE role 

Besides your lack of sleep and the fight against your body clock, the biggest challenge facing your energy levels is what you’re eating thought the day. Post-lunch hypoglycaemia is one of the leading contributing factors to the fatigue you experience in the afternoon. Because we are primarily burning carbohydrates as our fuel, afternoon fatigue is typically related to your body’s inability to synthesize your blood glucose. Rule of thumb? You need to fill your diet with good fats such as nuts, olive oil, healthy cheese and yoghurt and avocados during the first half of your day, and leave the carbohydrates to later in the day.


That’s right! You REALLY need to move during the day! Sitting at your desk and grinding until the cows come home might not be any good if you’re too exhausted to enjoy the benefits of your hard work. On top of the benefits for your body, your brain can’t focus for longer than 45 minutes at a time (and that’s on a good day – most of us only get 20 to 30 minutes normally) so set a time and take a 5 to 10 minute walk to get that blood flowing. Not only will you reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity; you’ll stave off that afternoon crash. 

Get Some Sleep!

Final tip here y’all – if you’re going to work hard, you need to rest hard. If you’re up at 6.30am to get your day started, you need to be asleep by 9.30pm. Making sure you get a good night’s sleep and wake up rested in the morning will help stave off that afternoon crash, you’ll be more productive and probably be a nicer person to everyone around you. 


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