There is nothing worse than feeling like you just want to put your head on your desk and crash around 3pm every single day at work. I was like this for a lot of my desk-based career, it was never so bad if I was on the move, but then you tend to crash the moment you come to rest at home. Most of my clients tell me they don't dare stop during the day as when they do they'll fall asleep; yep this was me in the past too. Has your 3pm slumping come on since you've noticed your hormonal transition or is it something that's always been there? You may not get it on the weekends or you may be pushing through and not registering it; have you noticed a difference in your pattern between work days and non? What's at the heart of the 3pm slump, is it food based? Sleep based? Or could there be another factor getting in the way? Today I'm going to unearth what factors contribute to your 3pm slump and how you can eradicate them! Read what you can do about it in my Menopause Blog: Got the 3pm Slump? Let's Fix It!
Got the 3pm Slump? Let's Fix It!
In my experience I see that there are 3 main factors that contribute to how energised you feel in the middle of the afternoon. There is the western physiology of your blood sugar levels, how well you sleep overall, and from a Chinese medicine perspective: How cold your Kidneys are; don't worry I'll explain all of this.
If you're struggling to get a good night's sleep this is going to be a major factor of how well you're performing at 3pm and I would suggest that you take your incomplete sleep seriously and work with a professional to make this as best as possible. If you're suffering from fragmented sleep what I'm going to tell you in today's blog may help but you'll be fighting an uphill battle if you don't address your insomnia. On the otherhand what I'm about to tell you today could help to improve your sleep as no two symptoms are separated from each other; your health will govern them all.
I have always been a good sleeper but I still wanted to crash in the middle of the afternoon so you could be reading this and be totally perplexed why you slump when you do get your 8 hours at night. Could it be you need even more sleep? Not entirely easy to fit in more sleep though, and some women do go to bed really early and still can't beat the slumps! Which may then indicate that it's not to do with sleep at all but the food that you eat before 3pm? Let's delve into this and see what changes you can make to be brighter in the afternoons, even in the Autumnal months when it's getting dark earlier and triggering melatonin (the sleep hormone).
How the food you eat affects your 3pm energy
I'm not a hormones expert or a nutritionist, I look at your energy cycles through the perspective of Chinese medicine but I do know that your blood/sugar levels throughout the day create energy spikes and slumps. You may even get your first energy slump mid morning, struggling to get to lunch without a pic-me-up, irrespective of how much sleep you've had.
This is why examining the foods you're eating from when you get up, through to lunchtime can shed light on your energy levels. It doesn't matter if you have breakfast and lunch or if you're an intermittent faster and only have one meal; what matter's is what you eat. The first meal of the day should be protein led but I tend to find with clients that they're eating a healthy breakfast but it's turning into sugars; let's break it down so you get my meaning.
Do you have porridge or oats? Do you top it with fruit like a banana? Do you top it with granola; Is it shop bought or do you make your own? Do you pop fruit into a smoothie?
Did you know all these foods are sugars that cause a slump just a couple of hours later? Yes they are healthy foods.... but for athletes! The more sugars your meal contains, without something to slow the process down, the quicker you'll have an energy peak followed by the crash. Are you wondering what's wrong with shop-bought Granola? It's how the nuts/seeds are bound together and the same goes for breakfast bars, look at the ingredients, it'll be sugar syrup/ honey/ maple syrup and in the US High fructose corn syrup; these are quick releasing sugars, very good for exercise straight away but not if you're more sedentary or in menopause.
It's these high doses of sugar, that you may not even realise that you're eating that you need to even out so you don't have slumps mid morning and mid afternoon. It's the same at lunchtime, your food determines what's going to happen in the afternoon and if you eat food that is straight from the fridge, or you eat salad in a month with no heat (which is most of our year!) then you're going to create the perfect 3pm slump.
Let's look at what to include in your breakfast that sets your blood sugar levels off on a balanced journey through the morning:
Eggs, plain yoghurt like Greek, nuts like almonds, seeds like chia/pumpkin/ sunflower, cheese, any dairy, meats, butter, chick peas, fish, spirulina, edamame, quinoa, beans, mushrooms, protein powders - these are all types of protein.
Pop some protein in every meal you have in the day.
A smaller woman needs around 80g of protein a day which isn't a lot, but the taller you are the more you'll need. During menopause and life beyond, protein becomes vital in your health and it's also the basis of balancing out the energy slumps. Protein is a slow burner, giving you energy for longer. If you're vegetarian or vegan there are a lot of plant-based proteins around, you just have to be more thoughtful of how to include these in your diet. Protein is key to balancing out your energy throughout the day, maintaining muscle mass as your body changes and adding to overall bone and brain health. DO NOT GO LOW FAT - that defeats the object, you actually need some healthy animal fats/ fish oils in your diet.
How to add in your sugars
Along with proteins you can add in sugars but choose wisely to help maintain your balanced energy throughout the morning: brown bread, brown sourdough, and berries are the sugars that release slowly; this is known as the GI (Glycemic Index) of sugars. You can do a quick google to get all the fruits and other foods that show you their GI but here are some of the main ones and if it ends in -berry you're on the right track!
Your first meal of the day isn't about eating less but about eating right as this sets up your body and your energy patterns through the rest of the day. Before I first learnt this and when I was driving to work I did a 2 hour drive from 6am, on the way I ate those mini-brioche buns; I loved them! What I didn't know was that they were really upsetting my insulin levels and set up a craving for sugar and feeling tired for the rest of the day. Once I learnt this I switched to a cube of cheese and a handful of nuts and things started to change.
What do you eat next?
If you've had your breakfast early and lunch is a long way off ,sort out some protein snacks for the week, this can be cubes of cheese, nuts, an apple and if you are running around like crazy you may want a banana but it could give you the rush, then the slump. Think about a tennis player, they just eat 2 mouthfuls of a banana between games, I always wondered why this was, so I tried it myself. I ate the whole banana and when I tried to serve I felt like the world was spinning I'd given myself too much sugar too quickly - lesson learned!
Proteins stop the hunger craving and stop you slumping energy wise. Do you get that sicky feeling where you say: If I don't eat something I'll be ill? That's not being hungry, that's your belly asking for more sugar to munch on. When you know this is the case you can give your belly some protein instead and that sicky feeling goes away. The more you eat proteins the less you'll get that feeling as you're retraining your body to reduce your cravings.
Have you been to other countries and had breakfast? You'll find that in a lot of cultures breakfast is just an extension of what they eat the rest of the day. In this country we've been sucked into a convenience style breakfast and American type ways of eating food. Cereals laden with sugar, muffins, and now processed breakfast bars are promoted to help us eat-on-the-go. Eating on the go is one of the worst things you can do for your digestive system, try and take the time to sit and eat something proper :)
How to avoid a 3pm slump with your lunch
A cold damp lunch can cause your 3pm slump!
I'm going to split this into 2 sections - what you eat and how you eat it! This is where a little bit of Chinese medicine helps you out so I'm going to explain it as it's a really useful thing to know.
It's all about your kidneys, yes your vital organs that sit at your back just tucked under the lower part of your ribcage. In the western world we don't talk about them much, either in or out of menopause other than to say: Stay hydrated! In Chinese medicine though your health revolves around your kidneys and never so much as during your menopause transition. The main point I wanted to highlight is that your Kidneys and Bladder (your Water organs) want to run their cleansing programme daily around 3 to 7pm so they are busy working and they would rather you were snoozing whilst they do this. Have a look at the Chinese body clock below, at each time of the day one of your vital organs is trying to clean itself up, the other notable time in menopause is 1 to 3am, where liver can cause night sweats.
Your kidneys in chinese medicine are the root of your energy, if they're unhappy you feel below par , if they are energised and warm, you're full of vibrant energy. Understanding this is the root to resolving most of your menopause symptoms including hot flushes!
What your water organs love at this time of day is warmth and this can be introduced physically and energetically; let's start with how you manage this in your food.
The meal you eat around lunchtime is the food that directly affects your Kidneys and salad is a killer; it literally creates your energy slump!
Why is this?
Salad straight from the fridge is physically cold plus foods like cucumber are energetically cooling. You could have a salad that has warmed up to room temperature, that's better, you could add food elements that are energetically warmer, think spices and peppery like rocket leaves. You could have last nights dinner reheated, this is physically warming and if it's got gentle spices in these are energetically warming. Your Kidneys want gentle warmth, it's what makes them work better.
Better than a salad would be a thick soup with gentle spices plus some slightly salted nuts, a cube of cheese and some berries or an apple. Last nights dinner reheated is better than a damp sandwich straight from the fridge. As soon as I replaced the soggy sarnie at lunchtime I felt more nourished and had more energy to get through the afternoon; this is when I saw a change to my slumping.
If you're saying: Hang on I have Hot flushes this will make it worse! No it won't, spices, the right amount at the right time of day will reduce Hot Flushes; this is known in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.
What you drink also plays a part. Cold water nooooo! This makes your kidneys work harder to warm you up, if they're wasting energy on this you'll want to snooze even more!. If you pee a lot then you're taking on board too much cold, this is your body's way of trying to temperature regulate.
People who are hotter are less likely to notice a 3pm slump because they have more energy. Don't confuse this with a woman with hot flushes, you're fundamentally cold and so you will notice the 3pm slump.
I hope this is giving you some insight into your lunchtime food; here are the golden rules:
Eat all food at room temperature or warmer, including drinks
Eat some protein to even out any sugars in your food
Add some salt, your kidneys love a pinch of salt to help them
Make your afternoon snack some gently salted nuts this supports your energy better
Switching to decaf will remove the slumps!
Caffeine, we all live on it and we think we thrive on it, I was the same; about 8 mugs of tea a day. I really didn't think I was having very much caffeine until I cut it out. I did it very gently over weeks, got a headache for 2 days over the 5/6 week withdrawal but it was totally worth it as I barely register 3pm now, in fact all my blogs are written between about 2 and 4pm as it's when I have the best concentration!
Warm your kidneys to ward off the 3pm slump
I've talked about supporting your kidneys by eating warming foods, so you're adding in some gentle heat internally but now how to add it externally. The Japanese have had the lead on this for 100's if not 1000's of years and as a damp island environment it's good to follow their lead in how to combat keeping the damp and cold out; and it's incredibly simple.
Don't let your back get cold.
Most people register heat from their chest to neck and face, and if this feels hot, then you register yourself as hot. What you're not realising is that your body is mainly cold and specifically your kidneys.
As I sit here and type I have kept my kidneys cosy as it's November and there is no heat on in the day. Infact don't waste heating when you can just keep 2 parts of your body warm to give you more energy throughout the day - your lower back and the soles of your feet.
These are the 2 key points on your body to support your Kidney energy and ultimately your overall daily and menopausal energy. If you're sitting at your desk I suggest having something very cosy for your feet so that the ACU point Kidney 1 is kept warm. No bare feet on a cold floor, that is guaranteed to chill you and increase your energy slump.
The Japanese keep their kidneys warm with something called a Haramaki, also known as a belly band, and you can achieve the same thing by wrapping a big fluffy scarf or even a hoody/ sweatshirt around your middle. The point is to keep your lower back snuggily to trap your own body warmth. If you're already sat with a hot water bottle, this is actually less effective. Get layers of clothing wrapped around your middle, then pop a heat mat or hot water bottle after if still required. Warmth that is too hot is dispelling (this is a bad thing,) it is far better to trap your own body warmth as it's the right temperature.
Many women say they can't temperature regulate very well, and this is the case because of varying factors depleting your Kidney energy through menopause but right now I've given you the answer not only to stopping 3 pm slumps but also to warming you up which will lead to better temperature regulation. When your kidney's are struggling, and this can be caused by stress, trauma, illness, and not wearing enough clothes, they switch off temperature control as it's not a vital function of survival; this is one of the factors in causing Hot flushes. Support with nourishment and keep your kidneys warm and you may very well find your flushes easing too.
My top tip for Haramaki and Kidney warmth
If you're the type to sit at your desk and not get up even when you know you're getting cold keep a big warm fluffy scarf within arms reach. Get into the good practice of typing it around your middle when you first sit down. You'll really notice the difference. It can be anything from a scarf, hoody or sweatshirt as long as it's snuggily wrapped around to trap in your natural body heat.
If you're on the go, why not wear one? If you don't want a woolly one cut off a T shirt that's too tight so you can wear it underneath, Remember to keep it over your lower rib (up to your bra strap) and down to your hips if possible.
Try your own Haramaki and feel the difference, even if you think you're too hot I can guarantee you that you'll realise that keeping your back warm is a pleasant feeling!
Still got the 3pm Slump? Let me help you further
If you're trying the above and not seeing a difference quite quickly you may need more one on one support or to further understand your whole symptom set. You may have other symptoms that you would like to resolve the underlying cause of once and for all. I'm here to help you get to the root cause of your symptoms, which are health imbalances and turn these around so that you have a far better menopause and a much healthier life afterwards.
I can help you with a consultation, or if you want more knowledge on the whole menopause, my unique perspective of resolving your symptoms naturally I have a vast self help area for you to check out.
In a consultation I look at your whole health holistically and create you a Chinese medicine-based lifestyle plan including nutrition, and supplements to help you relieve your symptoms and get back to feeling great again, just book in a chat with me to see what's right for you!