Caffeine-free ways to beat your midday slump

Picture this: After a long, productive morning, you have lunch and you feel ready to take on the afternoon by finishing the rest of the tasks on your to-do list… until, out of nowhere, the 3 pm slump hits hard. Suddenly, you're a little drowsy, your morning energy has all but disappeared, and you want nothing more than to switch off the computer screen and take a long nap. If you can't do that, then you might reach for a large cup of coffee instead – but while that will get you through the rest of your day, it will also keep you up late. Instead, try some of these ideas to boost your energy in the afternoon without caffeine.

One thing to remember about this afternoon exhaustion is that there's no real way to avoid it completely. It's basically your body's natural sleep cycle telling you that it's time to take a nap, and while it's possible to do things to lessen the feeling, it's hard to get rid of it completely. Most people head to their local coffee shop around this time, but it's definitely not the only way to feel more motivated and energised. The following science-backed tips will help you get through the rest of the day without that jittery feeling later on.

Go for a walk

When you feel like your eyes are starting to close, close your laptop and go for a walk. It doesn't have to be a long one – even 10 or 15 minutes is enough to give you a nice boost of energy, even more than you would get from coffee.

Eat a healthy breakfast and small lunch

As a more preventative measure, opt for a breakfast that is high in protein and low in carbs, and then aim for a smaller lunch. Research shows that a well-balanced breakfast delivers energy slowly over the course of the morning, rather than all at once, which could lead to a later slump. A breakfast high in carbs (like pancakes) can lead to a spike in blood sugar, which can result in a loss of energy later (like at 3 pm).

Research also shows that eating a large lunch can cause your body to produce serotonin, which can leave you feeling tired. Try to keep your lunch on the small side and filled with energising foods, like nuts, eggs, or beans.

Chew some gum

As weird as it sounds, chewing some gum might increase your energy. A series of studies examined how chewing gum affects a person's mood, and discovered that it might enhance alertness and sustained attention. But don't just start chewing like a madwoman: another study found that participants who chewed gum at a relaxed and natural pace after eating increased their energy expenditure. Hey, it's worth a try – at the very least, your breath will smell great!

Smell something citrus-y

Keep a stash of fresh lemons and/or oranges nearby for that afternoon sleepiness – taking a big whiff of one of these citrus scents just might improve your mood and make you feel ready to take on the rest of the day. In one study, Brazilian scientists had participants spend five minutes smelling substances, including sweet orange essential oil, and then have their vital signs measured. Those who smelled the orange oil were less anxious, and that lasted beyond the test. Lemon balm may also boost cognitive performance and mood.

Drink water throughout the day

It's probably no surprise that not drinking enough water can make things even worse after lunch. Studies from the University of Connecticut have shown that even just a 1.5 per cent loss in normal water volume can lead to fatigue and an inability to concentrate.

Meditate for a few minutes

Here's another benefit of regular meditation: It can actually give you more energy. Research published in Biological Psychiatry found that even short mindfulness exercises can reduce inflammation markers, reducing the stress that might lead to us being so tired in the afternoon. Other studies have looked at the way meditation affects the brain and have found similar results: that it can relieve stress that could cause exhaustion.

Sniff some peppermint oil

Citrus scents aren't the only types of essential oils to have on hand when you need energy. Peppermint oil has been said to give a little boost – just sniff it or put some on your temples. It smells great and makes you feel a bit more alive. You can even mix it with orange essential oil for a two-for-one boost.