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High noon - and then the letdown.

HIGH NOON-AND THEN THE LETDOWN

Skipping lunch, or even eating only a light lunch, is no guarantee that you won't feel sleepy by midafternoon. In many cultures, the heaviest meal of the day is at noon, yet the afternoon siesta is not the norm in most. Recent studies have shown that the typical midafternoon slump bears little relationship to the amount of food consumed for lunch.

Decreased alertness in midafternoon appears to be a natural phenomenon-simply part of the circadian rhythms that affect us all. We first heard of these mysterious influences in our lives when high-speed travel on jet aircraft began to produce so-called "jet lag." Whenever travelers have to cross several time zones within a few hours, this affects the internal clock that determines our daily cycle of sleeping and waking, along with attendant hunger, bowel movements, and other bodily functions. More recent studies have shown that exposure to light and to darkness also has much to do with the process.

The solution to the problem of midafternoon drowsiness, therefore, has much more to do with getting a good night's sleep than with what we eat at noon. One needs to eat regular, balanced meals to provide a steady supply of fuel, rather than skipping or delaying meals and thereby running out of fuel when energy is most needed.

If a large meal at noon-or any other time-seems to induce somnolence, one should eat less at a sitting, eat more frequently, and not rely on "pick-me-ups," such as vitamins or candy and other high-sugar foods. Vitamins do not supply energy, and the energy boost from sugar is brief. Moreover, a sudden rise in blood sugar causes excessive release of insulin into the bloodstream, with a resultant sudden drop in blood sugar that produces even more fatigue than before.

One should likewise avoid excessively low-calorie "crash diets." The lack of calories results in a lack of energy that can only worsen the daily routine. A diet rich in foods that contain iron is essential to a sense of well-being, especially for women. Many women require supplemental iron in addition to a healthful, iron-rich diet of lean meat, skinless poultry, and legumes.

Finally, forget the noontime cocktail. Even a little alcohol will decrease mental and physical alertness after lunch.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:midafternoon drowsiness
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Feb 1, 1992
Words:379
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