Brain fog affects most of us at some stage in our lives and can strike without warning.
You may suddenly discover your car keys in the freezer or realize you left a pot of water boiling on the stove while you were having a nap.
Sometimes, it might have developed over time. Ongoing bouts of confusion, a lack of clarity and an unsettling amount of disorientation, affecting your cognitive performance as well as your lifestyle.
What could be causing Brain Fog?
We did a bit of an investigation.
While Brain fog is not a medically recognized term, physicians acknowledge the phenomenon. And this is because most people have experienced the feeling of being trapped behind a smokescreen, struggling with articulation or finding it difficult to retrieve important information at one time or another.
“Brain fog is an inability to punch through,” says Mady Horing, MD, associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
“It’s a vague sense of what you are trying to retrieve, but you can’t focus on it,” she explains. “And the effort to harness the thought can be as draining as the physical activity.”
Think about how you feel when you have a head cold. The exhaustion and cloudiness are distracting and demotivating and the lethargy weighs you down. However, it usually passes after a day or two, whereas brain fog can persist for weeks.
Brain fog will impair your ability to function normally and, in some instances, completely disrupt you work and home life.
At the first sign of impaired cognition, most people start wondering if they are experiencing early-onset Alzheimer’s or even dementia. However, there is a notable difference between mental fog and dementia.
Impermanence is the big difference. Brain fog might cause you to forget where you parked your car at the mall, but dementia might make it impossible to get there in the first place.
Research on the subject is almost as fuzzy as your brain when the clouds roll in because there is no definitive test you can take to determine the cause like there is for dementia. What is very clear is that your brain is trying to send you an important message about an imbalance in your life the needs to be addressed.
Your Brain is Saying: You Need Good Quality Sleep
Researchers suggest that sleep quality is just as important as quantity. So, while eight hours per night is recommended, six hours of quality sleep can be equally restorative.
The brain forms new pathways during sleep and high-quality sleep improves attention, problem solving and decision making.
Your Brain Is Saying: You Need To Balance Your Stress
There’s no denying the perpetual busyness of our lives and stress is a by-product of that frenzy.
While stress can be good for you, spurring you on to achieve your goals, bad stress, the kind that keeps you awake at night, gives you heart palpitations and causes hypertension, can also cause brain fog.
Try This: Music is a wonderful de-stressor and a great way to balance the activity of the right brain (emotion and creativity) and the left brain (analytical and rational).
If your job is highly analytical, you could listen to classical music to stimulate your right brain.
Alternatively, if you spend most of your day doing creative work, listen to music with an inspirational message and try singing the lyrics to help balance out the left brain.
Your Brain Is Saying: You’re not getting enough brain food
Research shows that there is some evidence to suggest that obesity increases the risk of cognitive decline. So, it’s important to stick to healthy eating.
Try This: Aim to eat at least two servings of oily fish (sardines, pilchards, salmon or tuna) per week.
In addition, new research on phytochemicals (such as those found in berries and citrus fruits) shows that they may contribute to protecting and preserving brain cell structure.
Your Brain Is Saying: You might have an undiagnosed medical issue
Brain fog crops up in a number of diseases, from the autoimmune to the neurological (for example, fibromyalgia, lupus and multiple sclerosis).
If you’re sleeping well, eating healthily, aren’t dealing with undue stress and you’re still feeling fuzzy and disoriented, it might be time to consult a doctor, taking note of any other symptoms such as numbness or tingling, muscle pain, lack of coordination or headaches.
Try This: Keep a journal for at least 2 weeks, documenting all your symptoms. Categorize them so a clear picture develops.
It might be worth noting any new medication that you are taking. You may not be aware that certain antibiotics and even blood pressure pills can cause mental clouding.