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The Science Behind the 3PM Slump

February 27, 2020

The Science Behind the 3PM Slump

Yes, 3:30itis is actually a real thing, and I’m willing to bet that everybody reading this has experienced it before.

That 3pm nod off where you’re battling the urge to fall asleep at the desk, your concentration starts to get a little fuzzy, or you’re just craving something sweet. And like most of us, you’re probably scrambling for the quickest fix, which is usually a cup of coffee or a chocolate bar.

But why does this actually occur - and specifically, why does it always occur at the same time every day... That sweet spot between lunch and home time? Today we’ll try to unearth this phenomenon to hopefully kick it to the curb.

So, what’s the science?

A lot of this has to do with our sleeping patterns, which affects our body clock - or ‘circadian rhythm’. If you’ve woken up early for work, your body will be naturally telling you to take a nap between 2-3pm - 12 hours after you’ve been in deep sleep. 

Your circadian rhythm regulates temperature, alertness, sleep and hormone production. For your body to keep everything in balance (sleep homeostasis), such as when there’s a decrease in alertness, naturally your body increases the need for sleep by releasing certain hormones. 

So when you start to feel like you’re not working at your optimum, it’s probably the melatonin (your body’s sleep chemical) kicking in. This starts to give you a similar feeling that you get at night when you’re about to fall asleep. 

tired office worker

So the 3pm slump is really just your body’s way of telling you that you’ve been alert for too long and need to take a bit of a breather. 

What are some of the things that you can do to help these slumps?


Take a breather.

To counteract this fatigue, it helps to get up, move around and get in the fresh air whenever you can during the day. Getting up and moving around is one of the easiest ways to counteract this, as you’re telling your body that it’s time to move - not sleep! 

Going outside will also help boost Viatmin D levels which will help to alter your core body temperature, slowing down the production of melatonin. 

office workers talking

Even having a chat with a coworker or playing a game of office Jenga can increase your blood pressure, heart rate and dopamine levels which can give you a bit of an energy boost. 


Listen to upbeat music.

Music is an easy way to snap you out being tired. Certain types of music can effectively alter brainwaves — fast, upbeat music makes you more energetic, whereas slow, soft music calms you down. 

music office worker

It plays an important role in focus and productivity in the workplace, according to academics in psychology and music. 

It fulfils a range of functions for employees, including stress relief and improved concentration by improving mood and even to block out distracting noises in the office. 


A bite to eat.

Your blood-sugar levels dipping low is another reason that you might feel lethargic at work. But rather than reaching for a chocolate bar or the lolly jar, choose to have a mix of unrefined carbs, protein and fat to keep your blood-sugar and energy levels up until dinner. For example, a cheeky snack from a tukr box is a great way to keep your blood sugar levels high, with sustained protein to keep you satisfied until dinner. 

tukr snack box

If you have a quick sugar fix, you’re likely going to crash again before the work day’s over... Which will only lead you to reaching for more sugary snacks. 

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