A good question…
Many people have heard the term “brain fog” used in the English language. They may wonder, “What is brain fog?” or ask, “Is it a true medical term?”
Brain fog is an expression which describes a lack of clarity in memory and thinking. Per Harvard Health Publishing, brain fog is not a medical or scientific term. However, the words together provide a decent description of how people feel when their thinking is slow, “foggy,” or not sharp.
How does brain fog affect people?
In humans, brain fog usually disrupts:
People with brain fog are likely to think more slowly, experience confusion and forgetfulness, and perform poorly on mental exercises. A person may momentarily forget why they walked into the kitchen. Or perhaps forget to set their alarm clock at night. It’s important to note that brain fog tends to be temporary. Though sometimes it may indicate a larger medical problem, generally there are some explainable reasons why a person might feel mentally fuzzy.
Let’s explore more
There are many reasons why people may experience brain fog. For example, being tired can be a major contributor. The good news is that brain fog is often preventable.
Here are some ways to decrease the chances of experiencing brain fog. Note that these relate to living healthfully.
Living healthfully is key
Lack of physical exercise, a poor diet, inadequate sleep, and/or stress can take a negative toll on the body, even impacting memory and the ability to function well mentally. Let’s break it down:
- Being active is healthy. Physical exercise is known to help the body. Per Peloton, “Getting your heart pumping increases the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout your body, including the brain, which boosts brain cell performance.”
- A proper diet is essential to wellbeing. Healthline shares that brain fog can be caused by various reasons, including undereating. The act of undereating increases the risk of nutritional deficiencies such as the lack of Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays a critical role in many aspects of health, including promoting brain function. Likewise, food sensitivities are known to trigger episodes of brain fog.
- Sleep is vital to functioning well. Lack of sleep and brain fog are related. And there’s some science behind it. Simply put, sleep deprivation disrupts the ability for brain cells to communicate with each other. This causes temporary memory lapses as well as visual perception disturbances. Note that one in three adults in the USA aren’t getting enough sleep. Additionally, many people get fewer hours of sleep than what’s recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Click here to learn how much sleep is optimal.
- Mind health matters. Folks are often unaware of an association between brain fog and mental wellness. However, it most certainly exists. Brain fog may peak during periods of high stress as anxiety robs people’s mental energy and impairs the ability to think clearly. Per Therapy Cincinnati, anxiety and brain fog can be caused by a variety of mental health problems. This includes depression, attention related disorders, generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders, and more. Individuals faced with anxiety should seek prompt medical care to prevent stress from interfering with living well.
Even when living healthfully, it’s normal for people to experience some slight episodes of brain fog occasionally. Frequent brain fog is more serious and requires medical intervention. Unexplainable brain fog may indicate a more serious medical problem like dementia. Or there can be other causes. For example, some folks who had the COVID-19 virus have reported cognitive problems.
A great reminder
Remember that you are your first best health advocate – as you control your behavior and hold the golden key to living a fit and healthy lifestyle.
“What is brain fog?” It is ultimately a non-professional term to describe mental sluggishness and lack of mental clarity. But there are ways to be proactive and reduce incidences of having brain fog. Being physically active, eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet, getting adequate sleep, and seeing a health care professional to improve mental health outcomes are just a few things folks can do. Though slight and temporary mental fog is frequently attributed to lifestyle or natural aging, it may sometimes indicate the onset of medical conditions such as dementia or even a brain injury like a concussion. To learn more on dementia, read our sister article entitled Is dementia common? Note that it’s always best to see a physician for memory related issues, which only medical professionals can effectively diagnose through testing.
This article is not medically reviewed. It is purely informational and is not intended as a medical resource or as a substitute for medical advice.