How Do You Fight Midday Fatigue?

I was taught that health is like a three-legged stool, supported by sleep, food, and exercise. When one gets wobbly, you can bolster the other two and get some balance back.

So, if I’m feeling tired all the time, it’s particularly important for me to eat well and move around. Eight hours of sleep helps, too. It’s all pretty much common sense…but seemingly impossible.

The thing is, I actually tried this for three months. And I felt like a superhero. One glance at a set of directions and they were memorized. House keys were always in the same place. Energy was consistent and easy. It was everything I could have hoped for from truly taking care of myself.

And then I stopped. Who has eight hours to sleep?

Now I’m back to feeling sluggish, with a deep love of 20 minute mid-afternoon power naps. But until my pedestal is perfectly balanced again (likely perched on my high horse, at that point) I need some aids for daily fatigue, and I’ve found a few remedies that work.

Technically I have no authority whatsoever to dole out health advice. Sure, I study herbs with the tenacity of a chronic researcher. Yes, I make the occasional poultice and salve. And naturally I send Leandra elderberry syrup and oil of oregano during fashion week. But other than that, I’m just a girl who could easily hit snooze every 8 minutes for two hours in the morning.

With that in mind, a list of what I’ve found to help combat those midday urgent nap attacks:

1.     Water. It may sound too simple, but drink a big glass of water. Dehydration can quickly make a person groggy.

2.     Food. Granted, everyone’s different, but in general it’s a good idea to eat nutritious food every few hours, pairing carbohydrates and proteins with a veggie or healthy fat to avoid spikes in blood sugar and the subsequent crash. The idea is: if you grab a piece of fruit, have a few nuts, as well. And if you’re reaching for unsalted roasted almonds, definitely add a piece of Emmantaler. Which is cheese.

3.     Rosemary. Here’s where I get a bit witchdoctor-y. Making tea with dried rosemary is great for calm focus, which can be difficult to achieve. It seems that most remedies either counter anxiety by knocking you out, or jack you up past the point of concentration. I put dried rosemary in my french press with hot water and drink throughout the day.

4.     Adaptogens. These herbs are known to support the adrenal system, which regulates our body’s response to stress. Anxiety and stress can lead to nervous energy, a racing mind and ultimately fatigue. Herbs like Ashwagandha and Eleuthero (a.k.a. Siberian Ginseng) are fantastic for restoring balance.

For me, Ashwagandha’s too calming to take during the work day, so I boil the powder with cinnamon in water and have a cup before bed. I fall asleep faster, sleep better, and over time it’s helped me feel less stressed and therefore less worn out.

5.     Coffee alternatives. If you’re transitioning off coffee, or looking for something with a different kick, kukicha and mate are great. They both have caffeine but are much less likely to make me jittery.

6.     Finally, air. Getting up from my desk, stepping outside the office, and going for a walk around the block gives my brain a bit of a rest and gets blood pumping oxygen to both muscles and noggin, so I’m less tired both mentally and physically.

This works for me, but what about you? How do you guys combat midday fatigue?

— Kate Barnett, resident MR researcher of all that is healthy and herbal

  • Julia

    I’m with you on moving around. I often work from home so midday fatigue is difficult to combat with my bed staring back at me. I sometimes do a bunch of jumping jacks or run in place to jumpstart my energy help give me that extra jolt i so often need!

  • Katie Taylor

    I would be nowhere without my afternoon coffee. I don’t care how cold it is outside but an iced coffee always does the trick for me when I start fading from post-lunch fatigue.

  • Adrianna Grężak

    Totally agree with taking a walk. When I worked a 9-5 corporate job, I made it a point to spend at least half of my lunch walking around outside.

    I also find that a banana will cure my low mood/energy

  • carrotsandcandysticks

    I agree with a big glass of (ice cold) water, preferably with some bubbles in it. Also a little freshen up is always nice– I splash cold water on my face, maybe use a cleansing cloth, retouch some make up, give the teeth a brush, and put on a little perfume. Something about feeling fresh and presentable makes 4pm a little less dreary.

  • be

    mate! It’s actually “mate” not “maté” I’m from Argentina, and in our language (Spanish) “maté” means “murdered” so… mh… be careful with that, jaja! Mate is great to get rid of that midday fatigue, but you don’t want to drink a lot of that near your bedtime, it can really mess that up, you may not notice that at first, but it does. I like to stop drinking mate at 5PM, and that works great.


    • Kate Barnett

      fixed! great catch — i actually lived in buenos aires for a bit and that’s where i started drinking mate. i love it! although clearly my spanish was never that good.

      • be

        Oh! I didn’t know that! I wouldn’t even comment on that (my English and my French are kind of a mess so…) if it wasn’t kind of funny how easily you can go from a beverage to a violent verb.

  • Jessica

    The coffee alternative section is missing MATCHA! Sustained energy without the jitter or the crash….addicting! Check it out: 😉

  • Amelia Diamond

    KATE. I’m going to start doing all of this.

    • Kate Barnett

      DO IT! i definitely sent a bulk bag of organic rosemary along with fill-your-own teabags, kukicha and mate to Leandra’s place at some point. shocking, right?

  • CarlotaLMorais

    When im super slow and its getting harder to read/study I drink some Kombucha. Its a fermented tea filled wih antioxidants among other good stuff for your system. I like it super cold.
    In winter I do number 6 mostly, going for a walk and feeling the fresh air on your face its the best thing in the world after long hours inside!

  • Charlotte Fassler


    • CarlotaLMorais

      Yeeeeyy!!! And we have the same name too

      • Kate Barnett

        next up for me: home brewed kombucha!

  • Rosemary tea – that sounds wonderful! I’ve found that anything with lots of vitamin D (sunshine, certain foods) and a little B12 (daily multi-vitamin) works wonders on office energy, especially in winter time when I’m getting less of it from running around outside.

  • Ah, my constant battle with sleep and energy. It’s like the never ending cold war. I’m a night person by nature…I’m an insomniac as well, and anxious, but my sleep troubles really boils down to my internal clock not letting me get good solid sleep until around 2 am. So obviously, I live my life tired. Naps? No way could I take a nap in the day, while the idea sounds lovely. Definitely going to try these out. Especially the rosemary! I have rosemary growing and never know quite what to do with all of it. Thanks for the tip!


    • Kate Barnett

      the ashwagandha tea at night is soooo good for anxiety. it’s immediately calming, but also over time it helps to balance stress. i’ve actually found that i don’t grind my teeth at night when i take it. but if you need something stronger, valerian has been more effective than any sleeping pill for me. it can cause intense dreams for some, and it’s not recommended for every night (like any sleep aid), but it knocks me right out. i often make a tea with nettle, valerian, oat straw, red raspberry leaf and chamomile, but Alvita makes valerian mint tea bags, too!

  • Karen Liesens

    Thanks for the tips! I was feeling quite tired the last couple of weeks so I went one hour earlier to bed last night and I felt great this morning.

    x Karen

  • CDJ

    I cannot wait to try these out, Kate! For me, I make sure I have plenty snacks/teas handy in my office. I keep a drawer full of almonds and different herbal teas (since I’m a caffeine-free gal). I have a snack at 11 and at 230ish. I turn into a crabby toddler if I don’t have them. The 11 snack is usually a lara bar of sorts and the 230ish one is Trader Joe’s light kettle corn or carrots. I take snack time very seriously. ALSO: water all day errrr day.

    • Kate Barnett

      ME. TOO. as a result my mom always notices when i need a snack. she suggests it, i grumble, eat something and turn back into the most loving and apologetic child ever.

  • Anna Malcolm

    Kombucha and mate are great, so is iced coffee with fresh mint leaves. However, I am a huge proponent of light therapy-it’s not just for people with Seasonal Affect Disorder. My doctor recommend using this light on my desk for half an hour a day and it makes a huge difference. This is what I’ve been using for the past couple of years:

  • Ai-Ch’ng GB

    All the above works! I haven’t had midday fatigue for four years now, after struggling with keeping my eyelids open for over thirty years.

    I’ve added the following for the past four years to (most) of the above:
    1. sipping hot water in the morning with a half teaspoon of turmeric stirred in (great general anti-inflammatory), and only warm to hot water – no cold water (it slows your gut action right down) throughout the day to keep my metabolic rate going and digestion happy
    2. high protein energy breakfast (nuts and seeds with a cup of blue berries) with a few spoonfuls of amaranth and millet seeds
    3. twenty-five to thirty minutes of intense yoga (the Sun Salute – my my word, this has changed my life and energy levels completely) combined with Pilates and cardio every morning but Sunday
    4. cut out all bread at home (I still eat it when we eat out, though – love bread and butter!)
    5. added just twelve small – but significant – minutes of meditation split into 6 minutes in the morning and 6 minutes before bed – so grounding and nice to spread the peace and lerve to the everyone in the world
    6. spent half an hour every day taking care of our new trees and veggie patch (rosemary, basil, tomatoes, potatoes, lemons, mizuna etc hiding in there), and eating more of our own produce – it feels incredible to grow your own food and eat – and share it with loved ones… I can’t explain it – and this from a city girl, through and through
    5. and in the past week, absolutely no added sugar or sugary and processed foods (we ditched horrible, processed stuff like margarine years ago – and absolutely NO low-fat anything. We are full-fat eaters all the way – just a little of the rich stuff!) – except when we eat out once every six weeks or so (no time to eat out much these days, which has actually vastly improved my gut health and energy levels).

    Life is way too short not to take care of yourself and your loved ones! And, as I have learnt drastically in the past two years – if you don’t make time for your health now, you will have to make time for your illnesses (not much) later on.

    The only thing none of the above is incapable of saving me from is, boring lecturers or uninteresting, droning individuals… and my accountant appointments. I just can’t keep my eyes open to save myself.

    Just…… Do iiiiiiiiiiiiit!

  • ContentMode

    Green Tea!! Organic preferably is the best afternoon buzz when one is crashing from stress

  • LilyP

    deep breathing, and if you can, laying down for 10-15 minutes and just closing your eyes, even if you can’t sleep. i think every office should have a quiet room and give us all naps like they used to do in kindergarten…but if you can’t do that then just closing your eyes for a few seconds at your desk helps, also stretching and standing up or taking a brisk, brief walk. then a snack like an apple or some carrot sticks and raisins, something healthy but crunchy. AND ABSOLUTELY NO COFFEE AFTER 3PM…

  • jfs537 .


  • Ciccolini Ricearoni

    Terrific Kate. Glad I found this in the archives and will print it out!