How to beat that afternoon lethargy

MANY of us start to feel a bit tired around 3pm, and that sleepy feeling can cause us to lose concentration and become less productive.

If we're at work, we might rely on coffee or caffeine-rich food like chocolate to keep going. But there might be a better way to overcome the mid-afternoon drowsiness.

There is some data coming out that indicates that a brief nap of five minutes or less restores wakefulness and promotes performance and learning.

A previous Australian Prime Minister famously took “power naps” to help cope with a hectic and busy schedule.

From many of us, though, it's not possible to lie down and take a nap at work. However, closing your eyes for just one to two minutes has been found to have similar benefits.

While this may not be possible if you're operating equipment or in a meeting, you might like to try it whenever you have a short break.

The need to provide our bodies and our minds with “time off” is important to our productivity and our ability to handle challenging issues.

If it is not possible to close your eyes, look outside for 20 to 30 seconds without thinking of anything and then resume work.

That brief break is likely to increase your ability and outputs during the day.

Frequent or long naps during the day, however, are not good for your overall health.

Long naps have been associated with higher mortality and morbidity, especially among the elderly.

They can throw the body's metabolic system off kilter and can worsen symptoms of insomnia and depression.

So allow yourself a brief break this afternoon and you might find that you don't need that extra cup of coffee to get through your work day.

Professor John B Lowe is the Head of the School of Health and Sport Sciences at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

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