Afternoon Fatigue: Here's How To Fight It

By midday, I feel completely beat. I’m 37 and work as an English teacher in Beijing. I’m fine on mornings but by about 2 pm I just want to go home to sleep. Afternoon classes really drag. It’s been like this for a few months now. I’ve tried taking more vitamin E supplements and drinking coffee, but it’s not helping. Is there a cure for this kind of fatigue?

Question markIt’s very common for all of us to feel tired in the afternoon and only in rare cases can be a sign of more serious health problems. One major reason for afternoon fatigue is the post-lunch lethargy many people feel – it’s a mild version of that post-Thanksgiving “food coma” Americans feel after a gigantic turkey dinner. Part of this “food coma” could be the food types: heavy starches and meats always make me feel sleepier, while I always feel energized after a light Japanese or Vietnamese lunch. It’s the same with breakfast; a heavy steak-and-eggs breakfast really slows me down.

Besides assessing your lunch choices, you can also reconsider your coffee drinking, which may be making things worse. Yes, you do get an initial alertness from caffeine, but then there’s the inevitable withdrawal, which is what you may be experiencing in the afternoon. As for supplements such as vitamin E, I’m not aware of any good studies showing multivitamins helping people get more energy. As long as your diet is a rich mix of fruits and vegetables, you probably won’t find much benefit in a vitamin supplement.

In all cases above, my No 1 suggestion for improving afternoon fatigue is to take a short nap. A recent study further proved that even 10 to 20 minutes of closing your eyes in a quiet room – even at your desk – can dramatically improve your afternoon alertness and memory recall. In your case, perhaps you can take the last minutes of your lunch for a break.

There are some health issues that can cause fatigue, such as iron deficiency anemia, diabetes or thyroid problems, among others. If you change your lifestyle patterns but still feel tired, maybe it’s time to visit your family doctor.

This article was first printed in the China Daily Metro section, in my new “Ask a Health Expert“ column. Need health advice? Send questions to [email protected] or to their Sina Weibo @chinadailymetro.


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