9 reasons why you may be experiencing brain fog

Commonly, people believe that brain fog is a medical condition, but it is not. Brain fog is only a term describing when an individual experiences cognitive inefficiencies. Experts describe brain fog as a lack of mental clarity, inability to focus on things and difficulty recalling memories. 

What is brain fog? 

Brain fog refers to a phenomenon where you experience mental sluggishness and fuzziness. Brain fog is often a symptom of an underlying health condition. When you experience brain fog, you tend to be confused, forgetful and unfocused. You can also encounter a lack of clarity in a general sense, and you feel disorganised about your thoughts.

Brain fog is also known as “cog fog” by many patients. This cognitive impairment can affect people with suffering with sclerosis, and sclerosis patients can encounter brain fog symptoms such as difficulty multitasking, focusing on one or multiple things, comprehending conversations, and remembering information. 

Nine reasons you have brain fog

There are many reasons you may be experiencing brain fog; however, there are nine primary ones. Here are the following:

1. Pregnancy

Around 50 to 80 percent of pregnant women report having short-term problems with memory and thinking issues during their pregnancy. This is because carrying a baby in your womb can change your body, including body weight and form, high production of hormones, appetite, and cognitive difficulty. If you are pregnant, brain fog is one of the things you also have to deal with, but luckily, this is not permanent.

Consequently, health experts also call brain fog placenta brain or pregnancy brain because a pregnant’s placenta produces more hormones that cause fluctuations that can further lead to forgetfulness and lack of focus. 

Sleep deprivation is another reason you may be slacking in remembering things while pregnant. During the first and third trimesters, most pregnant women encounter sleepless nights due to many changes in their bodies and baby. Research also suggests that when you are pregnant, your brain functions differently, affecting your emotions [1]. 

2. Medication

If you start medication and suddenly can’t think straight or remembering is difficult, your medicines cause brain fog. Certain medications and different kinds of drugs, whether over-the-counter or prescribed, can give you brain fog due to possible sensitivity to some natural and artificial drug chemicals. 

Certain medications may affect brain functions, making you feel fuzzy and drowsy. Brain fog from medications is short-term and will only occur as long as you take the drug. However, such antidepressants generally help ease brain fog, while others have it as a side effect. Some brain fog-inflicting medications are antihistamines, bladder control, pain and sedatives [2].

Experts recommend talking with your doctor if you experience brain fog, as you may be prescribed with lower dosage or switch to a new medication. 

3. Lack of sleep 

Your sleeping schedules can directly affect your brain function. Sleeping less than 8 hours or more than 9 hours may cause brain fog. Regular poor sleep quality can interfere with how your brain works. This can lead to poor concentration and cloudy thoughts. However, sleeping too much can also give you brain fog. Aim for 8 to 9 hours is best to get the right amount of sleep. If you have sleeping problems, such as apnea, insomnia or narcolepsy, you probably get brain fog all the time [3].

4. Stress

Are you stressed most of the time? Well, that is the reason you have brain fog. Chronic stress can generally increase your blood pressure, weaken your immune system and cause depression. Aside from those, chronic stress can also give you brain fog as a harmful effect of mental fatigue. Furthermore, when your brain is tired, it is harder to think than usual, provide reasons and focus on anything.

Thus, your body activates its stress response when behaving apprehensively. Stress response refers to the body’s survival mechanism that produces stress hormones into the bloodstream to tell your body to act. In addition, the stress response can primarily cause three things. 

First is the increased activity in the brain’s areas responsible for fear detection and reaction. With this change in brain function, your awareness and reaction to danger heighten; hence, you can quickly react to things. When your brain experiences all these, you may find it hard to rationalise and focus, which refers to brain fog. 

Secondly, the stress response can increase electrical activity in parts of the brain that causes fast thought generation. This change in the brain can cause you to sidetrack and split your attention, and your thoughts become foggy. 

Lastly, stress response suppresses the hippocampus, which refers to the learning and memory area of the brain. When this happens, your brain will find it difficult to store and retrieve information – this can give you that foggy brain feeling. 

5. Medical conditions

Brain fog can be a symptom of several medical conditions. Iron deficiency anaemia’s first symptom is brain fog; this happens when you have low iron intake from your poor diet. When you are diagnosed with depression, you may often become forgetful, slow and inattentive, which is generally described as brain fog [4].

People with diabetes also experience brain fog when their blood sugar levels are not in normal condition, whether too high or too low. Sjogren’s Syndrome is another medical condition where you may feel brain fog. It is a disorder of your immune system that can significantly make your eyes and mouth dry. Patients of Sjogren’s Syndrome often suffer from mental fatigue and brain fog. 

6. Diet 

Your blood sugar spikes and drops when you eat excess sugar and carbohydrates. When this happens, you may experience brain fog. Moreover, you also have brain fog if you have been following low-fat diets on your daily schedule. 

Research suggests that nutritional deficiencies in vitamin D, magnesium and Omega-3s can also cause brain fog, most especially if you have vitamin B12 deficiency because it supports healthy brain function. 

Food allergies can also be another reason for you to experience brain fog. Some familiar sources of food allergies are aspartame, peanuts and dairy. Studies have proven that there is a connection between your brain and your gut health. Any irritation from your gut can affect your cognitive capacities, including your moods and brain functions.

7. Dehydration

As our brain is sensitive to dehydration, not drinking enough water can also cause brain fog. In fact, drinking water can actually help in removing brain fog. Your cognitive efficiency may be affected when you lose at least 2 percent of water in your body. This can lead to short attentiveness, short-term memory and inability to think and decide clearly – which is basically brain fog’s definition. Continuous dehydration for a period of time can cause your brain cells to shrink in terms of size and mass. 

8. Lack of exercise 

Inactivity of your body can cause brain fog. If you lack exercise, you are risking your brain to being inactive, too. With this, you may experience several brain fog’s symptoms, such as difficulty sleeping, impaired memory, and high stress. Continual non-movement of your body can lead to long-term cognitive risks. 

Consequently, exercise can be the answer to cure mental fatigue. Experts suggest that regular exercise enhances neuroplasticity and protects you from neurodegeneration. 

9. Toxins in your home

Chemicals from your household cleaning products, like detergent, bar soaps, and bathroom cleaners, can harm your health. With all these chemical products inside your home, a so-called “chemical overload” might negatively impact your and your family’s brain health. Some other toxins are indoor pollution, such as moulds, pet dander, pollen, and cleaning agents – all can cause brain fog on you. 

Brain fog is normally just a short-term effect. With the proper medications, habits and diet, you can easily ease yourself out of it. However, it is always better to seek medical help when what you feel goes beyond the symptoms of brain fog, as it can be a significant cognitive health problem. 

[1] https://thewell.northwell.edu/pregnancy/pregnancy-brain 
[2] https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/stuck-in-a-brain-fog-look-in-your-medicine-cabinet 
[3] https://www.webmd.com/brain/ss/slideshow-brain-fog 
[4] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320111#causes 
[5] https://www.webmd.com/brain/ss/slideshow-brain-fog

Photograph: Vitaliy Abbasov/Shutterstock
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