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  • Writer's pictureNikki McCaig


It’s a widely recognised fact that no matter how much coffee we drink, how many sugary drinks we consume or how much sleep we get - our productivity will slump at 3pm. It’s that mid-afternoon crash where your brain just can’t function, your eyes glaze over and all motivation flies out of the window. Your head begins to droop and your hands slow on your keyboard and time just drags until the end of the working day.

It’s at this time of the day where we become our most distracted, seeking out the simple rush of our social media feeds or a chat with a co-worker. We busy ourselves with cups of tea and biscuits and tidying up those files that really don’t need tidying. Essentially, we become our own zombie alter-egos and are physically incapable of contributing anything to our work until the following morning.

So what causes this sudden drop in productivity, and is there anything we can do to stop it?


One of the most common causes for our 3pm slump is actually just simple biology. The natural circadian rhythms of our bodies have organic rituals that require us to sleep when we need to, stay awake when we need to and rest when we need to - even if these rhythms don’t actually align with our daily schedules.

Between 1 pm and 3 pm, our bodies will naturally encourage us to sleep as part of our circadian rhythm, and these rhythms don’t have the capacity to worry about deadlines or watchful managers or daily tasks. They work by slowing down our heartbeats, making our limbs feel heavy, our eyes feel gritty and tired and our heads feel foggy, preparing us for the nap they desperately want us to have.


But it’s not just our bodily routines that affect our slumps. Factors such as stress and overwhelm can impact our circadian rhythms, along with the amount of caffeine consumed during the day, sugary foods eaten and the length of time spent staring at a screen.

For those of us who work in offices or spend a lot of time working in digital spaces, the bright LED lights of our screens can cause us to feel tired, sluggish and distracted throughout the afternoon. Meanwhile, the timings of our daily coffee breaks can also influence our energy levels during the day. Many of us will be reaching for a morning cup of coffee to help us wake up before work, but the effects of caffeine can begin to wear off after a number of hours, causing us to crash and hit that wall of exhaustion, seemingly out of nowhere.

Our post-lunch sugar levels will also drop around this time, and we’ll often find ourselves seeking a snack or a quick sugar boost to try and up our energy levels. If we’re stressed at work, feeling anxious and upset or even bothered by the office temperature, we can also feel the impact of our circadian rhythms hitting us harder than the previous day.


We know how important it is to keep your focus and manage your energy levels at work, so we’ve put together some quick tips to help relieve the signs of the slump:

  1. Take frequent screen breaks to help keep your eyes refreshed and alert.

  2. Stand up and move your body, even if it’s a quick walk around the office or just a good physical stretch.

  3. Spend a couple of minutes focusing on your breathing. When we sit particularly still during the working day, our breathing naturally slows which can cause us to feel relaxed and sleepy. Take some deep breaths, expanding your chest and releasing the air slowly through your nose.

  4. Hydrate yourself! Grab a cold glass of water and keep your hydration levels up throughout the afternoon.

  5. Include some more protein in your lunch, such as chicken or fish, to help reduce any potential sugar crashes.

  6. Sleep well the night before. Although it is our natural circadian rhythms that cause the slump, we can help ourselves to work through it by making sure we get enough sleep in general.

  7. Snack well. Although it’s tempting, try to avoid the sugary sweets and biscuits during your slump. Instead, start reaching for the veggie sticks, yoghurts and smoothies to ease your cravings.

Do you suffer from the 3pm slump and how do you push on through? Let us know in the comments!




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