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It stems from a dip in core body temperature, according to NSF. "That naturally happens between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.," the group says. "It's a dip that triggers the release of a snooze-inducing hormone called melatonin."
Of course, if your mid-shift hits at 9 p.m. or 3 a.m., you're not working against circadian rhythms to restore your pep. But you could still be susceptible to any of the other reasons the NSF provides for a mid-shift slump. They range from recently consuming a carbohydrate-laden meal like pasta, sitting still for hours or even the type of mild dehydration that leaves you surly and energy-deprived. So how can you snap out of it?
The NSF and nurses in the know offer these tips:
Forget the vampire routine.
Daylight is a powerful force in reminding your body that mid-shift is wakey wakey time, along with boosting your levels of bone-building vitamin D. "But it only works if you can see it," Sleep.org says. "Eat lunch outside, walk to a nearby café for a late afternoon snack, or at least sit near a window at work if you can."
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Keep a day brightener on hand.
Sorry, junk food snacks or caffeine-laden lattes don't do much to combat that zapped feeling that hits mid-afternoon. But there are other options that work as well, notes Fiona Crawford, an ICU float nurse at Erlanger Chattanooga. "I try to keep something in my bag that's just for me, like a nice-smelling lip balm or hand cream, or a very small portion of really good chocolate." She also makes sure she has a quick puppy compilation video on YouTube at the ready if she needs a boost in the afternoon hours, and she drinks sparkling water to rehydrate.
Move, move, move.
Activity helps, notes Katznelson. He recommends listening to upbeat music or going for a quick, but brisk, walk during mid-shift slump moments.
Check out for a few.
Amanda Moorhouse has been working as a nurse for 20 years, the past 10 of them as a nurse practitioner. Her top tip for fighting mid-shift slumps is to resist the nurse habit of forgoing breaks. "Even if it's just five minutes, step away from what you're doing, meditate, reflect or pray," she says. "We all need a physical time out."