How to Beat Brain Fog

June 9, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this Story

David B Duncan, M.D. contributes to topics such as Neurology.

What is brain fog? While it’s not a medical term, brain fog describes a feeling that you don’t have full mental clarity—maybe you’re having trouble remembering something or difficulty focusing on a thought or idea. This can happen to anyone and can be caused by lack of sleep, increased stress, certain foods in your diet or, in some cases, a medication or medical condition.

“Cognitive impairment, also known as cog-fog or brain fog by patients, is estimated to affect more than half of multiple sclerosis patients during the course of their illness. This can include difficulty multitasking, paying attention, understanding conversations and recalling memories. Early and aggressive treatment for MS is key in trying to slow down or prevent this problem from significantly impacting patients’ lives,” says David Duncan, M.D., director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

But in addition to those living with MS, brain fog can happen to anyone and can be caused by lack of sleep, increased stress, certain foods in your diet or, in some cases, a medication or medical condition.

Regardless of the source of brain fog, you can help combat it. Here are a few tips for managing brain fog and improving your cognition:

Get More Sleep

One of the most common causes of brain fog is lack of sleep or poor sleep hygiene:

  • Aim to get 7–9 hours of sleep each night
  • Keep a regular sleep routine
  • Go to bed at the same time every night
  • Avoid screens before you go to bed

Challenge Yourself

Treat your brain like a muscle and make sure it gets its exercise. This can take the form of traditional mind-sharpening puzzles and games, but it can also extend to your daily life. Read and learn about a topic you are interested in, whether it’s something that will help you in your work or a hobby. Staying engaged and learning stimulates your brain cells and keeps them active.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

If you are having trouble with memory in particular, repetition can be a useful strategy. Repeating something will strengthen your memory of it. For example, when you’re having a conversation with a new person, repeat their name back to them. Or after you have made an appointment, write it down.

Don’t Forget the Physical

Staying physically active and keeping a good diet have many health benefits, and that is no different when it comes to brain fog. Studies have shown that getting regular exercise and eating a diet high in vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains can reduce cognitive decline. These behaviors not only have cognitive benefits, but they can also improve your sleep, benefitting your mind even more.

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.