We’ve all experienced it—the dreaded brain fog. Maybe it sneaks up on you in the middle of the day while you’re trying to focus on the big presentation you’re about to give. Or maybe you wake up in the morning with it and it just stays put, leaving you feeling all kinds of pissed off all day. No matter when you experience it, brain fog is a hard pass from us.
Because everyone over here at Over Easy believes that knowledge is power and all that jazz, we think learning what causes brain fog, how to recognize it, and how to break the cycle can help stop it in its tracks. Just because it’s 7 am somewhere doesn’t mean you have to perpetually feel like you’ve just woken up.
What Exactly Is Brain Fog?
Everyone describes brain fog differently. Some people experience it as a general feeling of forgetfulness, while others feel like their brain is just operating slowly, like they are trying to trudge through molasses. While it isn’t an official clinical diagnosis, it is a common complaint for people with a wide variety of bonafide medical conditions. It really does happen to everyone at some point in their lives, and we’re all pretty sick of it.
It’s important to note that having brain fog does not mean that you have a mental health condition. While brain fog can go hand in hand with issues like anxiety and depression, you don’t have to have been diagnosed with either to feel the symptoms of brain fog. Sometimes, that fog just descends and tries to completely freaking ruin your day for no seeming reason at all.
Common Symptoms Of Brain Fog
Because brain fog isn’t something that can be officially diagnosed, there aren’t any official symptoms that you can check off and take to your doctor. However, based on the complaints that people suffering from brain fog talk about, we’ve come up with a list of some of the most common.
- Feeling “not as sharp”
- Difficulty focusing
- Being more forgetful than usual
- Feeling like your brain isn’t firing on all cylinders
- Difficulty multitasking
- Feeling more easily overwhelmed
Most symptoms of brain fog can simply be summed up as just feeling out of sorts. If you find yourself wanting to literally shake yourself awake, even after your sixth cup of coffee (hey, we don’t judge), you may be experiencing brain fog. Brain fog can last for a few minutes at a time or for days on end, to which we say no more.
What Causes Brain Fog?
First of all, brain fog doesn’t seem to be linked to age. While there may be a higher likelihood that you’ll notice the symptoms at an older age, it doesn’t mean it is an age-related concern. Plenty of young, healthy people have noticed symptoms like those mentioned above, as have middle-aged people and the elderly.
The most likely culprit of the things that may trigger brain fog is (spoiler alert) stress. This is because stress can trigger the release of toxins that, over time, build up in the brain. These toxins can affect all kinds of brain functions, like your ability to focus and concentrate as well as your memory.
Your brain can literally get tired and worn down, much like your body can feel after working too much and not getting enough sleep. However, although our body gives us clear signs that it needs to rest, our brains aren’t quite as obvious. They send us much more subtle signals that we need to pay more attention to.
Speaking of sleep, a lack of sleep can also definitely add to feelings of fogginess in the brain. Not only do you feel much less alert when you haven’t slept enough (which, according to the CDC, is between 7 and 8 hours a night as an adult), your brain also doesn’t get the precious time that it needs to reset itself. The way that the patterns of blood flow and electricity change when you’re asleep is similar to a dishwasher’s rinse cycle. In addition, that reset also removes a substance that has been tied to Alzheimer’s, known as amyloid, from the brain. Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep—and on that note, we think it might be nap time.
Nutritional deficiencies can also play a part in the brain fog. A lack of certain vitamins and minerals, especially over a longer period of time, can lead to lower energy, brain fog, and even some physical concerns. There are also conditions that are linked to eating certain things, like those we’ll talk about below, that can cause issues.
How To Break The Brain Fog Pattern
Start the battle against brain fog by focusing on making sure that you’re eating a healthy diet. One of the best places to begin is trying to cut out things that can be problematic to living a healthier lifestyle, namely dairy, gluten, and sugar.
While the switch can feel impossible at first, if you stick with it, you’ll likely find that your brain starts to process more quickly, work more efficiently, and just feel more clear overall. In fact, brain fog has been specifically linked to gluten intolerance and celiac disease. Eat more whole foods and foods rich in protein and nutrients, like our Over Easy breakfast bars.
Start developing a before-bed routine that you stick to, no matter what. Stop watching television, turn off your phone, consider taking a warm bath. Whatever you do, make sure that it is relaxing and doesn’t stimulate you or keep you awake.
Exercise can also help manage brain fog. Some studies show that, especially in older adults, exercise can help improve thinking ability, attention, and concentration. And this doesn’t have to be an intense form of exercise, like running a marathon (although if you’re into that kind of thing, good on you). Even just a short burst of yoga or a walk around the block can help clear out some of the brain fog so you can get back to focusing on what you need to.
Self-care is also an important tool to help reduce brain fog. Because stress is a prevalent part of all of our lives, especially lately, taking care of both your physical and mental health is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself. Try out meditation, take a warm bath, or talk things out with a close friend. All of these tools can help reduce your stress level and make it less likely that you’ll have to deal with brain fog.
Don’t Ignore Brain Fog
Even though brain fog isn’t an official diagnosis, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore it. If you’ve tried everything on the list and the fog persists, you should always see a medical professional. It can be a symptom of a medical condition, like a hormone imbalance or diabetes. Always take your health seriously, no matter what. You’re worth it, and really, who wants to sit around feeling less than their best?
Brain fog doesn’t have to be something that you live with. By eating a healthy diet (try a 3 bar trial of Over Easy if you’re not quite ready to make the leap yet), getting more sleep, trying to reduce your stress levels, and exercising more, you can dissipate the fog and enjoy a clearer, happier life. Don’t put up with a constant dark cloud floating over your head. Take charge of your life today!