The afternoon slump is a period of the day, typically around three to four in the afternoon, in which we tend to lose motivation and/or energy. Unfortunately, the fatigue that comes with arthritis varies from a stubborn ongoing tiredness to a sudden drop in energy that leaves you completely wiped. The added fatigue of the afternoon slump is something to watch out for and manage so that it doesn’t exacerbate the challenges already faced by someone living with arthritis. 

Some signs that the afternoon slump is setting in include: 

  • Sudden feelings of fatigue  

  • Frequent yawning 

  • Feelings of irritability or low mood 

  • Headaches  

  • Lack of motivation 

Tips to Help Offset Energy Dips 

  1. Incorporating daily movement: Moving your body and getting fresh air are extremely important components in preventing this slump and keeps you feeling energised and awake. Why does exercising give you more energy? Exercise spurs your body to produce more mitochondria inside your muscle cells. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cells as they create fuel out of glucose and oxygen. Having more of them increases your body’s energy supply. Consider signing up for one of our free six-week ‘Be Active with Arthritis courses, led by chartered physiotherapists here. Or, if you enjoy podcasts, you’ll get a lot out of our recent one with Professor Helen French covering the importance of exercise as first-line treatment for osteoarthritis here. 

  1. Having a good breakfast: The best way to keep your body at peak performance is to start your day with breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason! It replenishes your supply of glucose to boost your energy levels and alertness. Skipping any meal affects your concentration. Porridge is a great breakfast choice as it keeps you full for longer and supplies you with slow-release energy. Porridge is also rich in iron which aids oxygen transport for energy. 

  1. Prioritising hydration: Drinking enough water significantly effects energy levels. Even mild dehydration can affect brain function. A study done in young women found that fluid loss impaired both mood and concentration. It also increased headaches and caused greater feelings of anxiety and fatigue. Water transports nutrients and oxygen which keeps energy levels high. Aim for 8 cups of fluids a day, preferably water, although herbal teas count as well and some people prefer to get their fluids up this way during winter, when drinking cold water can be off-putting.  

  1. Reducing your sugar intake: Decreasing your sugar intake will result in an overall increase in energy. This is because you will experience fewer highs and lows in your blood sugar. People often forget that ‘With every action, there’s an equal but opposite reaction’. In other words, for every upswing that we might feel in energy from sugar, it is essentially a ‘false high’, and we will drop as low (if not lower) a while after. This ‘rollercoaster’ in energy levels is not only exhausting, but also mentally draining. Read our blog: '5 Reasons we Crave Sugar and How to Stop' here.  And don’t forget that one major source of sugar is alcohol! See below some ideas for healthy snacks to have during that typical ‘slump time’ in the afternoon to help sustain or lift your energy levels.  

  1. Cutting down (not giving up!) caffeine: Caffeine is renowned for increasing alertness and giving us a ‘surge’, explaining why so many of us reach for that cuppa in the morning for a ‘pick-me up’. However, this rise in alertness and energy is only temporary because, once the body completely metabolises caffeine, it can leave us feeling very fatigued and zapped of energy. The rate at which a person’s body metabolises caffeine varies depending on genetic and lifestyle factors, so it depends on the individual but, for many of us, it’s worth looking at cutting down (say, from three cups a day to just two). It’s not about having to give up entirely – it’s more about monitoring your intake and, also, being aware of the timing of our caffeine intake - if it’s too late in the day, caffeine can make it hard to fall asleep at bedtime, which will only compound feelings of low energy and fatigue.  

  1. Working on your stress levels: We all have stress in our lives, so it’s not about getting rid of stress, as such but, instead, learning how to manage it better. How does it affect our energy levels? Increased cortisol levels can lead to physical symptoms such as an elevated heart rate, quickened breathing patterns, and flushed skin. Once the thing causing the stress is gone, or dissipates in our mind, the body then lowers the cortisol and other hormone levels. This depletion can then lead to exhaustion. Of course, living with arthritis has many challenges and can make daily life, at times (such as during a flare-up) more a struggle. This is a time when asking for support, in addition to communicating as honestly and openly as possible about our challenges and our needs can make all the difference. If you are currently struggling, call our helpline on 0818 252 846 to chat to someone who understands what it’s like to live with arthritis and the challenges that entails. Also, have a read of our blog to find out '10 Simple Ways to Dial Down Stress' here. 


Chronic pain will lead to extreme fatigue – not just the afternoon slump – so make sure that you are in regular communication with your healthcare team regarding treatment options so that your pain is well managed. Listen to our recent podcast on pain management with Dr Conor Hearty here. 


Five Healthier Snacks to Replace the Sugar/Caffeine Hit at 4pm 

You’re finding youre reaching for a hit of sugar or caffeine around three or four in the afternoon and it’s becoming a habit. But that’s all it is – a habit – and habits can be broken (Read our blog on changing habits here) 


The key is to have replacements, so that you don’t feel deprived, and you have something to reach for when you’re experiencing that slump (or preferably, before it even hits!). These snacks or ‘mini meals’ could make a real difference to someone who is continually struggling with an afternoon crash in energy – aim to eat them between three to four in the afternoon and you might also find that you are less likely to then overindulge or overeat in the evening time).  


  1. A bowl of protein-rich Greek yoghurt (full fat is preferable) – served with raspberries, blueberries and banana (add chia seeds or other seeds if you like the taste and for an added boost of omega-3s).  

  1. A peeled and sliced apple or celery stick(s) with peanut butter for a lovely combination of fibre with healthy fats and protein.  

  1. A bowl of porridge made by cooking half a cup of oats with half a cup of water and half a cup of milk – cook gently and serve with fresh fruit, dried fruit and seeds. A small amount of maple syrup or honey is allowed – the sugar won’t mess with your own blood sugars so much as the fibre from the oats will slow down your body’s response.  

  1. A humble boiled egg – a simple source of protein that takes 5 minutes to boil and satisfies the appetite. Eat yours with a slice of sourdough or wholemeal bread for a dose of fibre to help keep you full for longer.  

  1. Vegetable crudites with hummus - adding vegetables is also a great way to bulk up your meals, helping you feel more satisfied throughout the day. Try carrots and peppers dipped into either shop-bought or homemade hummus to also deliver a plant-based protein source with some healthy fats (from the tahini and olive oil).