Unable to gather your thoughts, confused, or forgetful? The conditions below may be why you have brain fog; try these strategies to clear your mind.
Take inventory of your medications
Sometimes the combination of drugs can produce serious side effects; in other cases a drug itself, both over-the-counter and prescribed, cause brain fog. If you notice changes in your thinking or concentration, discuss the symptoms with your doctor.
Make a list of all the medications, over-the-counter drugs, and supplements you take, and go over them with your GP to rule out potential harmful interactions.
Are you undergoing cancer treatment?
Often referred to as “chemo brain,” memory and concentration can be affected by chemotherapy, reports webmd.com: “You may have trouble remembering details like names or dates, have a hard time multi-tasking, or take longer to finish things. It usually goes away fairly quickly, but some people can be affected for a long time after treatment.”
Reduce your screen time
You probably know that there are some real benefits to cutting down on screen time. But did you realize that spending hours on computers, tablets, or smartphones can cause mental exhaustion, too?
According to livescience.com, “Such digital overload may have an adverse effect on the brain and leave you distracted, foggy-brained and less productive.” Try carving out times without electronics so your brain can rest and re-boot.
Consider low blood sugar
Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is a common cause of dizziness and light-headedness that can result in brain fog, says Sheetal DeCaria, MD, an anesthesiologist and a pain physician in Chicago.
She points out that diet modifications may be in order. “Drinking some juice or eating a snack can help,” Dr. DeCaria says. To keep blood-sugar levels stable, eat frequent meals and be prepared if you are out and about.
You’re developing a chronic condition
Dr. DeCaria says chronic painful conditions—like fibromyalgia, a neuro-sensory disorder—can disrupt sleep and leave sufferers in fog. Their short-term memory and concentration falters due to their sleep issues.
Finding ways to manage the pain will lead to better sleep. If you happen to suffer from “fibro fog,” says Dr. DeCaria, take a look at your health habits. “The best treatment for fibromyalgia is actually lifestyle changes,” she says.
“My treatment recommendations focus on eating a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, exercising regularly (yoga and tai chi are beneficial due to the mind-body aspect), improving sleep, and meditation.”
Menopause may play a role
Memory problems often affect women going through menopause and evidence exists linking loss of memory abilities during menopause. A study in the journal Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society, found that bouts of forgetfulness and struggles with “brain fog” for women in their late 40s and 50s may be due to menopause.
“The most important thing to realize is that there really are some cognitive changes that occur during this phase in a woman’s life,” study author Miriam Weber, PhD, neuropsychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center told the New York Times.
“If a woman approaching menopause feels she is having memory problems, no one should brush it off or attribute it to a jam-packed schedule. She can find comfort in knowing that there are new research findings that support her experience. She can view her experience as normal.”
Could it be MS?
Because multiple sclerosis affects your central nervous system, it may hinder communications between your brain and the rest of your body, according to webmd.com: “Your brain ‘talks’ to the rest of your body and about half the people who have MS have issues with memory, attention, planning, or language.”
If you have an MS diagnosis, learning or memory exercises may help, the site suggests. Speak to your physician about how to best manage your symptoms.