I Can’t Focus!” — Brain Fog and Its Causes

Brain fog, also known as clouding of consciousness, is a term used to describe dysfunctions with concentration, learning, and memory. It not only creates brief episodes of confusion and disorientation, but it can also be a source of anxiety for older adults. If you think you are experiencing brain fog, a sign is being unable to cut through to that clear, incisive thinking you used to have.

What are the causes of brain fog?

There are several scientific explanations for why brain fog occurs. Once you determine the underlying cause, you and your doctor can fix the problem. Here are six possible causes.

1. Lack of sleep

Poor sleep quality can interfere with brain function and activity. According to HelpGuide, aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to ensure your brain functions at its best. Getting little sleep in the evening can lead to poor concentration and cloudy thinking.

2. Stress

You may be experiencing chronic stress if your body shows physical signs of tension, such as low energy, chest pains, headaches, and loss of sexual desire. Outbursts of anger, nervousness, sadness, and mental fatigue can additionally indicate high levels of stress. When your brain is exhausted, it becomes more challenging to focus and think. Thus, always make time for relaxing and enjoyable activities to help ease your mind.

3. Hormonal changes

Hormonal changes can cause brain fog, especially during pregnancy. Levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone increase when pregnant, which can affect a woman’s memory and cause short-term cognitive impairment. Likewise, a drop in estrogen level during menopause can trigger poor concentration, forgetfulness, and hazy thinking.

4. Diet

Your diet and food choices play a vital role in the occurrence of brain fog. For example, getting your general supplemental dose of vitamin B12 helps support healthy brain function. Conversely, a deficiency in vitamin B12 can bring about brain fog.

If you suffer from food allergies or sensitivities, brain fog may develop after eating certain foods. These often include:

  • Peanuts
  • Dairy products
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Artificial non-saccharide sweeteners (aspartame)

Eliminating allergens from your diet may improve your symptoms.

5. Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions associated with exhaustion, changes in blood glucose level, and inflammation can cause mental fatigue and, subsequently, brain fog. For instance, brain fog is a manifestation of chronic fatigue syndrome, which involves persistent weakness for longer than six months.

Several other health concerns may induce brain fog, including:

  • Anemia
  • Diabetes
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Sjogren syndrome
  • Migraines
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Dehydration

Autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and lupus may also contribute to recurrent brain fog.

6. Medications

If you notice brain fog symptoms while taking medication, discuss them with your doctor. One or more of your prescription drugs may be the culprit behind increased confusion and disorientation. Lowering your dosage or changing your prescription may alleviate your symptoms.

A Word of Advice

A case of brain fog can frustrate anyone, most especially if you are a student or working individual. Fortunately, relief is possible. Consult your doctor if you experience lack of clarity that persists or worsens. If brain fog is left unmedicated, it can impact your quality of life. Once your doctor addresses the underlying cause, your mental clarity can improve.