Eliminate the MADness (Mid Afternoon Drowsiness)
The majority of mammalian species have a second sleep period during the daytime because of the mid-afternoon dip in alertness. This dip in the alertness in the middle of our working day causes a decline in our productivity and, more importantly, creates an environment conducive to disastrous mistakes. The following graph depicts the number of sleep-related accidents and their time of occurrence. Please note the steep increase in accidents between one o’clock and three o’clock.
The incidence of sleep-related vehicle accidents (n=606) by hour of day. BMJ 1995; 310: 565 Sleep-related vehicle accidents. JA Horne, professor, LA Reyner, research associate, Sleep Research Laboratory, Department of Human Sciences, Loughborough University, Leicestershire LE11 3TU.
Why does this occur? Well, our internal pacemaker, Suprachiasmatic nucleus located at the base of the brain makes us sleepy in the mid-afternoon. Fighting this tiny structure will take discipline and persistence, but this can improve your executive output by thirty percent and can eliminate disastrous decision making.
First, you have to recognize this decline in alertness and in productivity. Look for it and you shall find complacency and chaos, disastrous decision-making, and combustible communication post-lunch. Keep these tips in mind to help you get through the mid-afternoon madness:
- Keep moving. Pace the floor. If you are in a meeting, flex and extend your ankles. Take a trip to the restroom.
- Look at the light. Sit facing the sun. Minimize power point use if giving a presentation. Turn the slides off and turn the lights on every ten minutes.
- Eat a light lunch. If you avoid carbohydrates, you will not feel sluggish at the next afternoon meeting. Your head will be able to think clearly and handle crucial decision making duties.
- Use caffeine judiciously. It can improve your alertness but can rob you of your deep sleep at night as it has duration of action of 24 hours.
- Take a fifteen-minute power nap. It will go a long way in improving your performance as a leader. Studies have shown that a fifteen-minute power nap can improve alertness, decision-making, creativity, communication, perception, situational awareness, and problem-solving for 150 minutes.
If you follow these tips, you can maximize alertness even in the afternoon.
What has your experience been? Have you noticed sluggishness, errors, omissions, complacency, and chaos around mid-afternoon? What tips do you follow to overcome mid-afternoon madness? How did you overcome the cultural stigma associated with napping?