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If you feel tired most afternoons, you are normal. Studies of office workers and school children show that people work best in the early morning. As the morning progresses, they lose their ability to concentrate, go out to lunch and function way below their capacity for the rest of the day.

The best time to use your mind effectively is just after you wake up. When you have to write a report or letter, prepare for an exam, or perform difficult calculations, do it in the morning or shortly after you wake from a nap. A study from the University of Pennsylvania Hospital shows that pilots who sleep just 20 minutes during flights while their copilots take over are more alert, attentive and responsive than those who don't nap.

It gets worse as you age. Older people often fall asleep while you talk to them in the afternoon. A study in the medical journal, Sleep, shows that a regular afternoon nap can help older people remain awake afternoon and evenings. The people took a planned nap for 90 minutes in the afternoon, and had a remarkable improvement in their alertness in the afternoon and evening. They did not sleep as deeply at night and did awake a little earlier in the morning, but felt that the gain in alertness afternoons and evenings was far more important than this slight loss of sleep at night.

Tiredness is a signal that your brain needs a rest. If you suffer from afternoon tiredness, find a quiet place to lie down during your lunch hour and take a nap. There is no good data to support the often quoted recommendation that you should exercise when you feel tired because exercise perks you up. Eating or avoiding specific foods also does not prevent afternoon tiredness and drop in mental and physical performance. Some people take a prescription drug called modafinil, which has been approved for treatment of narcolepsy, a serious medical condition that causes people to suddenly fall asleep. This can work if you take it only on the rarest of occasions, but no drug replaces sleep as a treatment for tiredness, and as you continue to keep on taking it, it can lose its effect. The only effective treatment for tiredness is rest.

Checked 8/9/05

May 31st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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