Friday, November 18, 2011

The Cure for Afternoon Munchies

Do you know what these are? I didn't...
Twas midafternoon, when all through the workplace
All energy was gone, without a trace; 

The salads had been eaten at lunchtime with care, 

In hopes that weight loss soon would be there; 

Morning motivation now replaced with dread, 

And visions of sugar danced in everyone’s head.

On our new client paperwork, one questions asks “what’s is your worst time of day for overeating?” It’s no surprise that 3:00pm and 4:00pm are the most common answers (and yes, after dinner is a close runner-up). Mid-afternoon our blood sugar drops after lunch and our morning caffeine has almost run its course. The cravings begin. For some it's sweet, others salty and people start to hunt for something to satisfy themselves. What’s going to do the trick? Maybe it’s something without calories or sugar or salt.  Maybe what you really need is a nap.

The sleep/weight connection is a strong one and I’ve talked about electronic curfews and sleep hygiene before. The less sleep you get the greater your appetite and the stronger your carb cravings will be. But it’s not just nighttime, a 20-30 minute  nap can improve alertness, mood and performance (too long can leave you groggy). Napping can also lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke and isn’t reserved for the stroller set or seniors. Our biological clocks or our "circadian rhythms," are actually programmed for long sleep during the night and short sleep during the day. So what we mistake for hunger in the afternoon hours may actually be a need for sleep. According to the sleep foundation nappers are in good company:  John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and George W. Bush are known to have valued an afternoon nap. Though I am unsure about Napoleon (short but not sure of weight), none of these men were heavy.

Some studies have shown that just relaxing can help so don’t be discouraged if there’s no bed in sight,  though beds are best. I first learned the value of napping as a new mom; these weren’t planned naps but what is referred to as “emergency napping”.  I now see an afternoon nap as a treat and on the days I have early clients will lie down for 15-20 minutes before I start to write or return emails in the afternoon. I also put my head down on my desk for a few minutes when I’m at work to disconnect and unwind. 

These are nap facts from Sara Mednick assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life Make it quick

  • Set your cell phone alarm for 30 minutes or less if
you don't want to wake up groggy. (I read a tip elsewhere to have some tea or coffee pre nap, it kicks in just at the time your nap is over)
  • Go dark. Nap in a dark room or wear an eye mask. Blocking out light helps you fall asleep faster.
  • Stay warm. Stash a blanket nearby to put over you because your body temperature drops while you snooze.
Here is a list of all the things napping can do for you:
Increase your alertness.
Speed up your motor performance.
Improve your accuracy.
Make better decisions.
Improve your perception.
Improve performance at work.
Preserve your youthful looks.
Improve your sex life.
Lose weight.
 Reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
 Reduce your risk of diabetes.
Improve your stamina.
Elevate your mood.
Boost your creativity.
Reduce stress.
Help your memory.
Reduce dependence on drugs/alcohol.
Alleviate migraines, ulcers, and other problems with psychological components.
Improve the ease and quality of your nocturnal sleep.

And the cookie? It just makes you look like St Nick and…
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.

Are you a napper? How long do you usually sleep? Did you guess what was in the photo at the top? (Hint in the poem)


  1. I honestly think lack of sleep is right up there with too much sugar as a main reason that Americans are overweight! I always evaluate my clients response to the question "do you get good sleep"? They typically don't understand why I'm asking, but then I explain the connection between sleep, health, and weight. Many times they quickly make a change, for the better.
    I read that study about coffee and a nap. I found it very interesting. Funny thing, if I had coffee AND took a nap in the middle of the day, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. Moral of the story is, I thin I get good sleep!

  2. I think sleep is a big part of the puzzle Gina, totally underestimated.

  3. I have never been a napper, but now that I have read this post I am thinking I need to give them a try! I tend to get tired around 3-4. Often I am in my home office, so I really have no excuse. When I am out and about on sales calls I tend to just grab a second (or third, but I am weaning myself down!) cup of coffee...not a good strategy, I know!

    Thanks for the great post.

  4. I have so much trouble napping! I sometimes think I'm not capable of it, unless I'm not feeling well. I try to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Usually I find that if I have some green tea and a little bit of protein like nuts or a hard boiled egg when I get hungry around 3:30/4:00, that usually satisfies me and keeps me going until dinner time.

  5. Lack of sleep is definitely an issue; unfortunately impossible to nap in workspace. What's helpful - go for a walk around the block to clear my head. Or, since the office space is so big (if I cross the office 20xs it's a mile. And yes, I thought about that) and two floors, a 5 min walk aroun the office helps.

    Would be great if there was a place for people to just kick back for a while, but then it's seen as unproductive time.

  6. Cameo- if you can I would try it, dark room even if you don't sleep. Lauren, I used to think I couldn't nap but it's like falling asleep at night- it happens even when you don't feel tired. Jen- it would be great, like in hospitals if there was a relaxation area. What seems unproductive or lazy actions boosts productivity.

  7. Lauren, I'm a bit bothered that you used a photo of me without my permission. Baha! I'm a terrible napper; I have a hard time not DOING something. Part of my problem is that I usually feel sleepy around 6:00, which isn't really the best nap time.

    But I love that you're making a link between hunger and sleepiness. I definitely eat more poorly on days when I didn't get enough sleep. Modern life has made us ignore or push aside a lot of our natural impulses...including laying down for a snooze in the afternoon.

  8. I was definitely a napper in LEAST 20-30 mins after my last class. Then when I started working 40 hrs I would either lay my head down for a few before coming back from lunch or try to squeeze a quick nap in the afternoon. However, bc it was mostly a desk job, when the weather is decent I always use that time for walks. I guess that would help with the weight gain too no? ha

  9. Great visuals, and you had me fooled thinking there was going to be a recipe for yummy treats :-). A napper I am not, but, for the most part, I get 7-8 hours of sleep every night which carries me throughout the day. 3-4 p used to be my favorite exercise time, cause, you're right, you do get sleepy then, so a little exercise would wake me up, and keep me from being hungry. These days, with my kids just home from school, that time is now "prime time" when my kids are doing homework, having friends over, or needing a ride to sports, so no time for naps or workouts in the afternoon. Maybe time for a small treat though?? JK! :-) I do agree that sleep is Super important for Many things, including helping with weight control!

  10. Lauren you crack me up... did you write that poem? I am now convinced of the importance of napping... I knew about the importance of getting enough sleep at night but not about the importance of getting a snooze during the day.
    Maybe there is a connection between no napping and out of control kids (or ADHD). It seems that kids are napping less and less and stopping naps at earlier ages now. My mom tells me that I napped until I was 6 and so did all of my friends.
    Now most kids I know stop napping at 2 or 3.
    Maybe kids that have trouble focusing in school need a nap (not drugs).

  11. Lisa- I did write/adapt the poem, ha ha. i think not only do kids need naps, we all do. Agree with what you say re nap vrs meds...I think many things can be solved with lifestyle adaptations.

    EA- you pointed out to me the importance of 5 deep breaths (life changing) I think lots of moms benefit from breathing/relaxing before kids get picked up or come home when all the activity begins, anything to recharge. And the treat in the photo? Can you guess it?

    Erin- I think fresh air is another great way to revive energy.

    And Stephanie, I would've had you make a clay jelly belly had I known the skill level you have. LOVED the too old for tag post.

  12. That poem is awesome. I'm a champion napper. If could have majored in napping, I would have graduated with honors. If only I could nap at work...

  13. Couch in your office. Thank you for the poetry compliment, no guess on the food pictured M?

  14. The pic looks like Christmas cookies of some sort, but no real idea. I do have a couch in my office. I also have a ton of windows, so lots of kids/colleagues/parents would see me sleeping. That would not be well received, sadly. I do love a nap. More poetry!

  15. I have a love/hate relationship with naps. Most the time I end up feeling worse off. These naps are usually about 30 minutes, which it sounds like is too long.
    I had a coworker who used to do yoga and sometimes nap at lunch. She said it always felt great to have relaxation mid day. I will have to try that.

  16. Kristen, set a timer and yes, 15-20 min. Also, not too, too late in the day when too tired. I'm for any relaxing, non-food pick me up.

    Marie- visions of... speaking of visions, the thought of students/colleagues looking into your office with you crashed on the couch made me laugh.

  17. That's what a sugar plum looks like? The more you know...

  18. I nap for 15-20 minutes in my office all of the time. Glad I can do it guilt free now.

  19. Love this post. I can personally attest to carb binging when I haven't slept well the night before. My two worst times are the 3-5pm time and after dinner. Sleep is so important for appetite regulation!

  20. I am not a napper. I am no longer an afternoon snacker either (not that I really was but still) after seeing this lovely stomach photo!

  21. On my days off from work I always think about napping while my son naps. But then I open my lap top and before I know it he is awake! I need to work on that.

    Are those sugar plums?! I always thought that was just a made-up food :)

  22. I agree, love this post. I never thought much about napping until I was at home most days a few months ago... I napped EVERY day, and still slept well at night - which to me, meant I probably needed/benefited from it.

    Currently I am in an office in the afternoon, but I dream about my ideal job where the food would be healthy, exercise would be encouraged, and naps would happen! I honestly think we'd all be better, happier employees.

  23. Jessica, I'm with you I sleep better at night with a nap. We all have to nudge our jobs closer to our dream jobs.

    Jenny- unplug and give yourself some downtime. Yes- sugarplums! And they don't necessarily have plums in them. Who knew?

    Ameena- how bout that stomach photo, I had one I found that was a jiggling video, would get all of us napping.

    Betty- keep napping, so, so good.

  24. Sadly, I'm not much of a napper. However, I'm a huge snacker! 3:00 is bad for me.

  25. I'm not much of a napper, which is unfortunate because on the rare occasions when I have been able to nap (when I'm sick, or when my son was a newborn) it's very refreshing. I have found that taking 5-10 minutes to practice some deep breathing (preferably lying down, eyes closed) has helped me a lot. That's also very refreshing and could be a good stand-in for a nap for people at work or who otherwise can't get a nap in.

  26. Agreed re deep breathing, all about taking a time out and changing the tone of the day. That's why I think we snack is that we know we need something...just not sure what.

    Tiff-see if any of these tips- getting outside/breathing/closing eyes changes things, stop! Don't roll your eyes worth a try, right?

  27. This is a great post! For as long as I can remember I've never been able to nap during the day. Something about knowing that things are going on around me just keeps my brain awake. But totally true about that 3pm slump. Starbucks probably makes just as much money then as they do at 9am!

  28. I'm not much of a napper (no time) but that belly pic was enough to scare me away from the chocolate chip cookie I was just contemplating!!

  29. I can always nap during the day though I don't. While I was in college I would come home from classes with two things on my mind - food and naps! Now since I am working I don't have time and would rather go to sleep a bit earlier than waste time sleeping when I get home from work.

  30. I think people underestimate the value of sleep. After doing a 3 year residency (the short one you can do)! I find I have the ability to nap ANYWHERE..on plane, on a train, on a bus, during rounds (when I resident). I find that around 8 hours after I have woken up I either want something sweet or sweet dreams.

    I actually went to foodtrainers after gaining weight doing 3 years of the night shift. I never felt rested even If I sleep all day. I think I craved doritos and diet coke for the first time in my life because my body was in shock. A nap midday should no longer be considered a "treat".

    I feel bad for people who are the hospital after surgery or for an illness, all night long there are intercoms screaming "code blue" etc and nurse doing necessary vitals. The hospital I am at now has a "NO INTERCOM" policy after 11 pm (we all have beepers, don't worry we get to you if you are having a cardiac arrest) and our computer system will alert you if you are giving a medication that will be needed to be given at an unreasonable hour and suggest a different dosing schedule. Huge difference in patient experience.

    Also, LOVE the poem! Lauren you are very funny.

  31. Melanie- I think residents are who we think of when we think of the ultimate in sleep deprivation so you'd know. It is ironic when people are hospitalized how tough it is to sleep when sleep is so important for your health. Happy Thanksgiving M! Hope you're liking the new hospital.

  32. I loved reading all the napping benefits...I will never feel guilty after an afternoon nap again!