What is the time of the day when you feel tired, sleepy, and unproductive? For most, the answer is in the afternoon. Around the time of 2-4 pm, most of us experience a dive in our energy levels and needs a pick me up. We often blame this seemingly insurmountable tiredness on the food we had for lunch. But this is not always the case. This physiologic drop in energy happens because of our body’s natural sleep/wake cycle or the circadian rhythm.
What is circadian rhythm?
Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are a part of our body’s internal clock. It is almost like an app that runs in the background to regulate all our bodily functions and activities. Now, this circadian rhythm is the reason behind your afternoon lethargy. After about 8 hours of awakening, your body naturally tends to lose its energy and tries to restore its equilibrium. What better way of overcoming than a nap? This is precisely the reason why you feel sleepy during those afternoon hours. Whether you eat a full meal or not, you will experience this dip in energy. But it does tend to get worse after eating a heavy meal. Think of it as putting your body to work after eating, it will get exhausted from it’s own clock and from digesting all the food.
Benefits of napping
Taking a nap can actually be quite beneficial to your body. First of all, short naps can be a substitute for caffeine or energy drinks. Instead of getting that mocha, put your head down and rest for a little while. This will clear away the lethargy and recharge your store of energy. Short naps of 20 – 30 minutes act as a reset button for your brain. They make you more alert, improve efficiency, increase concentration and retention. It also makes you less restless and improves your overall cognitive functioning for work post-napping.
Naps can also prove to be quite beneficial for the creative part of your brain. After a nap, you will think more clearly and improve fine motor performance. This is the reason why most corporate offices like Google encourage power napping at regular intervals to keep their employees efficient for longer.
Nap before or after lunch?
Okay, napping is beneficial! But should you be sleeping after a heavy meal? Well, the answer is Yes and also No. Confused? Don’t worry I’ll explain. You can sleep after lunch but not to do so immediately after lunch. Sleeping immediately after will not give your body the chance to burn off these calories. Also, after a meal, your digestive system is busy trying to process the food you’ve just eaten. When you sleep immediately after a meal, you unknowingly halt the process of digestion. This results in a lot of food being left off unprocessed in the intestines. This can lead to stomach aches, indigestion, bloating, and a lot of other complications that no one is fond of.
Does this mean you cannot sleep after eating? No, you absolutely can. If you want to nap after a meal, make sure that you wait at least for an hour after consuming food. This will give your body enough time to process all the large particles in the food. You can also try napping before a meal. But, there is always the possibility that lethargy will creep back in afterwards.
So, the best thing to do will be to wait for an hour after lunch and then take your nap. If you are someone who feels sleepy around 2 pm, then schedule your lunch time meal to be around 1 to optimize yourself for a restorative nap.