The 2:30 Feeling: Science Explains Why You Get So F*cking Tired Midday

by Gigi Engle

You know when you’re sitting at your desk, cranking away all of your assignments and suddenly a wave of fatigue washes over you like a tidal wave made of lead?

The day started off really well. You had your morning coffee, probably had another cup around 11 am and dove right into the pile of work you had to finish with the force of a thousand bulls.

But after lunchtime, just around 2:30, everything changes. All of that energy you honed throughout the morning suddenly evaporates. Suddenly you’re overwhelmed with exhaustion.

This is a little devilish thing known as “That 2:30 Feeling.”

The 2:30 feeling is no myth. It is no figment of your lazy, avoiding-work-at-all-costs-because-you-want-it-to-be-five imagination.

According to Urban Dictionary, the 2:30 feeling is when you haven’t had your afternoon caffeine fix -- or if you’re making an excuse for a boring situation you don't care to be in.

But if you’ve ever worked or are currently employed in an office, you know that the 2:30 feeling, or afternoon fatigue, is absolutely real and it's a deadly plague that overtakes your office after lunch.

It comes down upon yourself and fellow coworkers like a deepening fog, forcing you to wade through your dwindling last minute assignments like a farsighted person who has lost his glasses.

Your exhaustion combined with the probable sleepiness of everyone else around you creates an environment of discomfort and unhappiness. There is nothing so disheartening.

You know it’s coming to a hilt when three or four people are gathered around the company espresso machine with a frightening combination of desperation and disconnection in their eyes. We all just need caffeine! GIVE US OUR CAFFEINE!

So, what causes this afternoon fatigue? What is the reason for this collective, two to three hour Mano that afflicts the entirety of the American workforce?

Your body’s natural sleep cycle

Your body’s natural sleep cycle will automatically make you want to take a nap in the afternoon. Because you were up early for work, around 2 or 3 in the afternoon is when you should naturally be taking a rest.

Your natural clock is telling you, “Let me sleep, now!” but your work schedule is telling you, “LOL, no.”

According to Lona Sandon, RD, MEd, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center on WebMD:

There seems to be a natural rhythm or set clock in our bodies, so many people tend to feel a little sleepy around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. There seems to be something natural about this lull. Some cultures have the siesta, and people find that they're more productive and better able to concentrate if they take time off after lunch and come back later.

For instance, in Spain, everyone goes home after lunch to take a catnap before heading back to work. Oh, how great does Socialism sound right now, guys?

The American-style work ethic doesn’t allow for this. All hail capitalism and overworking ourselves, amiright?! We’re expected to push through from when we yank ourselves out of bed at 7:30 until we pass out from exhaustion at 10 pm.

Some companies are seeing the benefits of taking afternoon naps. The Huffington Post provides its staff with napping pods so that they can recharge their brains if they're feeling drained.

If you take a nap after lunch, you see increased productivity throughout the rest of the day.

Your brain releases sleep chemicals

Your body releases your brain’s natural sleep chemical, melatonin, telling your body it's time to go to hit the hay between 2 and 4 in the afternoon.

WebMD's sleep expert, Michael J. Breus, PhD, explains that the exhaustion you feel in the middle of the day is just like the tiredness you feel before bedtime at night:

It has to do with a dip in your core body temperature. Right before you go to sleep at night, your core temperature begins to drop, which is a signal to the brain to release melatonin. The exact same thing happens on a smaller scale between 2 and 4 in the afternoon. It's a mini-signal to your brain to get sleepy.

Basically, because we wake up super early for work, our body wants to go to bed in the afternoon because our natural clock is telling us to do so. Is this stressing you out yet? It’s definitely stressing me out.

Your diet plays a major role

Besides your lack of sleep and the fight against your body clock, one of the biggest challenges facing your energy levels is what you’re eating throughout the day.

Dr. Mercola of Dr. Mercola’s Natural Health points out that your diet is crucial to contributing to fatigue, “The most common cause is post-lunch hypoglycemia, which is related to your inability to burn fat.”

Where humans used to use fat as the primary source of energy to burn, we now use supplements like simple carbs (read: candy) and, of course, caffeine-oriented crutches like coffee.

Because most are primarily burning carbs as fuel, afternoon fatigue is typically related to post-lunch hypoglycemia. By switching your body from using carbs as its primary fuel to burning fats instead, or becoming "fat adapted," you virtually eliminate such drops in energy levels.

You need to fill your diet with good fats such as nuts, olive oil and, for all you basic bitches, avocados. That’s right, avocado toast will apparently help you not be a sleepy bitch in the afternoon. Or, at least, it will help. Multi-grain toast, guys!

You need to get your a** up during work!

As Runner's World points out, sitting for prolonged periods of time at work is really, really f*cking bad for you. It doesn't even matter how much you exercise if you're sitting all day.

Also, it will definitely contribute to fatigue as well as cause a lot of other health problems.

According to research conducted by Dr. Joan Vernikos, former director of NASA's Life Sciences Division:

We now know that the key is in how many times you interact with gravity, such as standing up from your seated position, in any given day. The act of standing up makes your body interact with the forces of gravity, which is what produces beneficial health effects. Interestingly, the lipoprotein lipase is dramatically reduced during inactivity, and increases with activity, the most effective activity being standing up from a seated position. Lipoprotein lipase is an enzyme that attaches to fat in your bloodstream and transports it into your muscles to be used as fuel.

So, in layman’s terms, you need to get up and walk around every hour or so to prevent your body from suffering. Your body can’t use fat to make energy if you’re sitting, so your muscles will get wonky and sleepy and you will want to take a nap.

Personally, I do all of these things and still feel terrible at 2:30. I eat a high protein breakfast, I try to sleep eight hours a night and I walk nearly 5 miles every single day. None of these things help. What it really comes down to is how often we’re awake for such a prolonged period of time.

Think about it: You wake up at roughly 7:30 and go to bed at around 11. That is 15.5 hours of pure awakeness. Doesn’t that seem like a really long time to be cognitively active?

So, if you’re like me, I guess you can fight off afternoon tiredness by drinking a sh*t load of coffee around 2:30, embracing that hour or so when you feel like you’re going to pass out on your desk and sleep for all eternity.

As long as we’re working such intense hours, we’re going to be tired.

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