Afternoon drowsiness is a major problem for many corporations — it is estimated that lost productivity costs billions. A possible obvious solution is to allow 20 to 30 minutes of napping per day when it is deemed necessary, creating a work environment that may actually help to boost workplace productivity rather than hinder it. In today’s fast-paced society and tough economy, however, most companies frown on napping in the workplace rather than encourage it.
A study from Harvard University considered worker burnout over four days of training and the effect of napping. As the four days of training wore on, the workers began to experience burnout. But the good news is that the study found that workers who were allowed to take a 30-minute nap on the second day of a four-day training session experienced less decline in visual tasks. A one-hour nap was actually found to return performance back to normal in the last two sessions.
Can’t squeeze in a nap? Use these tips to boost your energy and productivity during the day:
1. Take a good quality multivitamin at breakfast, lunch and/or dinner: It may help prevent your afternoon energy lull. For best results, look for multivitamins and all other supplement products that are free of binders, fillers, artificial colorings, preservatives, yeast, sugar, starch, hydrogenated oils or other additives. If you have many food allergies or sensitivities, you may want to be particularly vigilant about peeking at your vitamin labels. Lactose, corn starch, various sugars, soy and yeast can be used as fillers, and may cause digestive disturbances or even fatigue in sensitive individuals. In many cases, what you get is what you pay for so it’s worth it to spring for product manufactured by a reputable company or purchased through a practitioner’s office, as these often run through a rigorous testing and purification process.
2. Avoid eating too many carbohydrates, such as breads or pastas, at lunch and be sure to have some protein with your meal: Also, ditch the sugary snacks — they will just cause you to crash later on. A salad topped with olive oil and grilled chicken, turkey or shrimp is a great choice for lunch that won’t weigh you down for the rest of the day. For additional recipes visit our book extras section at The Hormone Diet.
3. Always keep water at your desk: Dehydration is a very common cause of fatigue and headaches. But be sure to avoid drinking water out of plastic bottles, as this leaches hormone disrupting chemicals. Dehydration can also cause us to reach for a snack instead of a thirst-quenching beverage. So get plenty of water! It’s a very easy way to control your appetite and maximize fat burning. Remember, sugary drinks don’t count towards your daily water intake and must be avoided. To get an accurate picture of how much water you should consume daily, try this simple formula: Your weight times 0.55 = # of ounces — divide this by eight to calculate the number of cups to drink per day.
4. Adaptogenic herbs, like rhodiola, ginseng or licorice can increase vitality — especially if the cause of your fatigue is ongoing stress or overwork: These are available at your local health food store and are often in the section called “adrenal gland supplements.” Your adrenal glands are commonly referred to as your stress glands because they release adrenalin and cortisol when you are in stressful situations. Over long periods of stress or overwork, they can become strained or lead to burnout, which is why herbs to support their function can be beneficial to increase your energy reserves and put a bounce back in your step.
5. Take a vitamin B complex and 100 to 200 mg of coenzyme Q10 with your lunch: These are helpful supplements to keep at the office, since they not only boost energy, but also help the body to adapt to stress and support healthy heart and adrenal function. B vitamins are water soluble and are easily depleted with perspiration and stress. Coenzyme Q10 depletes with aging and with the use of certain medications, including those commonly used for cholesterol reduction (statins). Take a high-potency B complex or look for 200 to 500 mg of vitamin B5 and/or 50 to 100 mg of B6 per day.
6. Ditch the java for a cup of green tea: Green tea is a better alternative to the caffeine in coffee or tea and it actually has a calming amino acid called theanine, which is known to support relaxation during times of stress without causing drowsiness. Theanine works by increasing the production of GABA in the brain. Similar to the effects of meditation, it also stimulates alpha brain waves naturally associated with deep states of relaxation and enhanced mental clarity. L-Theanine may increase learning, attention and sensations of pleasure as well. These effects are likely due to the natural dopamine boost brought on by L-theanine, making a perfect beverage for a mid day boost at the office.
7. Ensure seven and a half to nine hours of sleep per night: Undersleeping is just as harmful as oversleeping. If you find that you consistently need more than nine hours of sleep per night, a trip to your doctor’s office for some simple blood tests to evaluate causes of fatigue may be worthwhile. Ask for an assessment of your thyroid to rule out hypothyroidism. For more information on the symptoms of hypothyroidism, revisit my article on boosting your thyroid.
8. Check your iron levels: If you find that your fatigue is increasing, you may want to ask your doctor to check your levels of ferritin, the storage form of iron. Optimal levels should be close to 70 in women and 100 in men. Low levels of iron are associated with fatigue, hypothyroidism, decreased athletic performance, ADD/ADHD, restless leg syndrome and even hair loss. If your ferritin is too low, use a supplement of iron citrate daily with 1,000 mg of vitamin C. The citrate form of iron will not cause constipation. Along with your ferritin levels, ask your doctor to test your folic acid, vitamin B12 and complete blood count to rule out anaemia, which can contribute to fatigue.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and her newest release, The Supercharged Hormone Diet, now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique.