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Last Updated on December 18, 2020

What Causes Brain Fog? (7 Things You Can Do to Prevent and Stop It)

What Causes Brain Fog? (7 Things You Can Do to Prevent and Stop It)

Brain fog is more of a symptom than a medical condition itself, but this doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Brain fog is a cognitive dysfunction, which can lead to memory problems, lack of mental clarity and an inability to focus.

Many often excuse brain fog for a bad day, or get so used to it that they ignore it. Unfortunately, when brain fog is ignored it ends up interfering with work and school. The reason many ignore it is because they aren’t fully aware of what causes it and how to deal with it.

It’s important to remember that if your brain doesn’t function fully — nothing else in your life will. Most people have days where they can’t seem to concentrate or forget where they put their keys.

It’s very normal to have days where you can’t think clearly, but if you’re experiencing these things on a daily basis, then you’re probably dealing with brain fog for a specific reason.

So what causes brain fog? It can be caused by a string of things, so we’ve made a list things that causes brain fog and how to prevent it and how to stop it.

1. Stress

It’s no surprise that we’ll find stress at the top of the list. Most people are aware of the dangers of stress. It can increase blood pressure, trigger depression and make us sick as it weakens our immune system.

Another symptom is mental fatigue. When you’re stressed your brain can’t function at its best. It gets harder to think and focus, which makes you stress even more.

Stress can be prevented by following some simple steps. If you’re feeling stressed you should avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine — even though it may feel like it helps in the moment. Two other important steps are to indulge in more physical activities and to talk to someone about it.

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Besides that, you can consider keeping a stress diary, try relaxation techniques like mediation, getting more sleep and maybe a new approach to time management.

2. Diet

Most people know that the right or wrong diet can make them gain or loss weight, but not enough people think about the big impact a specific diet can have on one’s health even if it might be healthy.

One of the most common vitamin deficiencies is vitamin B12 deficiency and especially vegans can be get hid by brain fog, because their diet often lacks the vitamin B-12. The vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to mental and neurological disorders.

The scary thing is that almost 40 % of adults are estimated to lack B12 in their diet. B12 is found in animal products, which is why many vegans are in B12 deficiency, but this doesn’t mean that people need animal products to prevent the B12 deficiency. B12 can be taken as a supplement, which will make the problem go away.

Another vital vitamin that can cause brain fog is vitamin D. More than 1 billion people worldwide don’t have enough vitamin D in their diet. Alongside B12 and vitamin D is omega-3, which because of its fatty acids helps the brain function and concentrate. Luckily, both vitamin D and omega-3 can be taken as supplements.

Then there’s of course also the obvious unhealthy foods like sugar. Refined carbohydrates like sugar will send your blood sugar levels up, and then send you right back down. This will lead to brain fog, because your brain uses glucose as its main source of fuel and once you start playing around with your brain — it gets confused.

Besides being hit by brain fog, you’ll also experience tiredness, mood swings and mental confusion. So, if you want to have clear mind, then stay away from sugar.

Sometimes the same type of diet can be right for some and wrong for others. If you’re experiencing brain fog it’s a good idea to seek out your doctor or a nutritionist. They can take some tests and help you figure out which type of diet works best for your health, or find out if you’re lacking something specific in your diet.

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3. Allergies

If you have food allergies, or are simply a bit sensitive to specific foods, then eating those foods can lead to brain fog. Look out for dairy, peanuts and aspartame that are known to have a bad effect on the brain.

Most people get their calories from corn, soy and wheat — and big surprise — these foods are some of the most common foods people are allergic to. If you’re in doubt, then you can look up food allergies[1] and find some of the most common symptoms.

If you’re unsure about being allergic or sensitive, then you can start out by cutting out a specific food from your diet for a week or two. If the brain fog disappears, then you’re most likely allergic or sensitive to this food. The symptoms will usually go away after a week or two once you remove the trigger food from the diet.

If you still unsure, then you should seek out the help of your doctor.

4. Lack of sleep

All of us know we need sleep to function, but it’s different for everybody how much sleep they need. A few people can actually function on as little as 3-4 hours of sleep every night, but these people are very, very rare.

Most people need 8 to 9 hours of sleep. If you don’t get the sleep you need, then this will interfere with your brain and you may experience brain fog.

Instead of skipping a few hours of sleep to get ahead of things you need to do, you’ll end up taking away productive hours from your day, because you won’t be able to concentrate and your thoughts will be cloudy.

Many people have trouble sleeping but you can help improve your sleep by a following a few simple steps.

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There is the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise, which is a technique that regulates your breath and helps you fall asleep faster. Another well-known technique is to avoid bright lights before you go to sleep.

A lot of us are guilty of falling asleep with the TV on or with our phone right by us, but the blue lights from these screens suppresses the production of melatonin in our bodies, which actually makes us stay awake longer instead. If you’re having trouble going to sleep without doing something before you close your eyes, then try taking up reading instead.

If you want to feel more energized throughout the day, start doing this.

5. Hormonal changes

Brain fog can be triggered by hormonal changes. Whenever your levels of progesterone and estrogen increases, you may experience short-term cognitive impairment and your memory can get bad.

If you’re pregnant or going through menopause, then you shouldn’t worry too much if your mind suddenly starts to get a bit cloudy. Focus on keeping a good diet, getting enough of sleep and the brain fog should pass once you’re back to normal.

6. Medication

If you’re on some medication, then it’s very normal to start experiencing some brain fog.

You may start to forget things that you used to be able to remember, or you get easily confused. Maybe you can’t concentrate the same way that you used to. All of these things can be very scary, but you shouldn’t worry too much about it.

Brain fog is a very normal side effect of drugs, but by lowering your dosage or switching over to another drug; the side effect can’t often be improved and maybe even completely removed.

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7. Medical condition

Brain fog can often be a symptom of a medical condition. Medical conditions that include inflammation, fatigue, changes in blood glucose level are known to cause brain fog.

Conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, anemia, depression, diabetes, migraines, hypothyroidism, Sjögren syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, Lupus and dehydration can all cause brain fog.[2]

The bottom line

If you haven’t been diagnosed, then never start browsing around Google for the conditions and the symptoms. Once you start looking for it; it’s very easy to (wrongfully) self-diagnose.

Take a step back, put away the laptop and relax. If you’re worried about being sick, then always check in with your doctor and take it from there.

Remember, the list of things that can cause brain fog is long and it can be something as simple as the wrong diet or not enough sleep.

Featured photo credit: Asdrubal luna via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Food Allergy: Common Allergens
[2] HealthLine: 6 Possible Causes of Brain Fog

More by this author

Maria Jensen

Specializes in personal and professional development.

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Last Updated on April 30, 2021

How to Stay Awake at Work Without Caffeine

How to Stay Awake at Work Without Caffeine

Coffee is a way of life for many employees. Caffeine gives them the boost they need to help them get through the day. But as we know, like sugar highs, eventually the caffeine boosts wear off. The million-dollar question at the office for many people should be googling is, “how to stay awake at work without caffeine?”

According to Gallup, a staggering 85% of workers are “not engaged” at work.[1] That means the majority of the workforce around the world view their work negatively or are doing the minimum required to keep their jobs. As a result, it should come as no surprise that people are getting tired at the office.

Perhaps, you’re like one of my clients. Every morning he starts off his day like many people all over the world. He heads into the kitchen, pops in a capsule in his Nespresso machine, and then sits in front of the TV while sipping his gourmet coffee. Then, throughout the day, he’ll have one or two more cups, especially if the Sandman is visiting.

According to The National Safety Council, 43% of workers are sleep-deprived so it’s not uncommon to see people with a cup of joe on their desk.[2] Add in the meetings that seem to drag on and the hours we spend in front of a computer screen and the battle for our focus is very real.

Caffeine has become the drug of choice for millions. People use coffee to jolt themselves back into focus. Starbucks has even made coffee hip and cool, not to mention pricey. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for us. Thankfully, there are better, healthier ways to stay awake.

Here are some tips on how to stay awake at work without coffee.

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1. H2O

We all know the importance of drinking water. What most people don’t realize is the effect it can have on our focus and productivity. If you’ve ever been on a 6-hour plane ride or longer, upon landing, your body feels heavy. The reason is dehydration. The adrenaline from the excitement of heading to Disneyland with our family can mask our lethargy for only so long. Once it wears off, our body will feel it.

The same thing happens at the office. The more dehydrated our body is the worse its functions. Headaches are largely linked to dehydration. Hydrating our body has numerous health benefits that are relatively unseen including the elimination of toxins from our bloodstream, improved digestion, lubrication of our joints and eyes, and increased concentration.

Just how much water should we be drinking? According to The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, women should drink about 2.7 liters a day, while men should drink about 3.7 liters.[3]

Despite knowing we should drink more water, many people don’t. Why is that? Simply put—boredom. It’s lacking in taste. Coca-Cola, Mountain Dew, or Monster Energy are what people turn to instead. It doesn’t hurt that they have caffeine in them either, giving them a double shot of energy in the form of sugar and caffeine.

How do we combat this? Easy, by making water “cool.” Liven up your water by adding ice cubes made out of 100% fruit juice or add wedges of fruits to your water infusing them with a hint of your favorite flavors.

Suggestion: Download an app or set up alarms to notify you throughout the day to drink water. Your body will thank you.

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2. Good Night’s Sleep

Like water, this should go without saying. It should, but with 43% of workers being sleep-deprived, it needs to be said, over and over again. Too many people shortchange their sleep because of work or fun.

For most people, there’s just not enough time in the day to do everything they want to. Burning the midnight oil before a big presentation or project is understandable but long-term, our body and performance will suffer if we push our body too hard.

A few years ago, the WSJ coined the term “sleepless elite,” referring to a small group of people that only need a short amount of sleep every night. Scientists estimate they make up only about 1% of the population.[4] You might be one of them. Only you know how effective you can be on a few hours of sleep. I’m not one of them, and chances are likely you aren’t either. I’ve only ever met one person who fit the bill, but the impact it is having on their body is still unknown.

We are all unique. Each of our bodies functions slightly differently, but for most people, seven to eight hours a day is needed for optimum performance. But it’s not just about quantity but also quality, which is why it’s important to have a 30-minute cool-down before getting into bed.

Turn off all screens. If possible, switch to yellow light. If not, simply turn down the lights. Turn off notifications on your phone. Do everything you can to make your environment conducive to sleep. Finally, reading a chapter or two in a good book to make yourself sleepy is a great way to get ready for bed. Doing these simple things will dramatically improve the quality of your sleep.

Suggestion: Create a daily cool-down routine to ensure the quality of your sleep.

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3. 80% Rule

In Japan, there’s an expression, “8 bun me,” which refers to eating until you’re 80% full. It’s actually a stroke of genius, especially for those looking to get more done at work. Knowing how to stay awake at work without caffeine is a real challenge for many people, but adjusting your diet is a great place to start.

When I first moved to Japan, I often found meals to be much smaller than those in America. I’m not going to lie, it bugged me at first. I found myself still hungry after lunch. Over time though, my body adjusted.

The problem with a full stomach is that it pulls blood away from our brain, which is why many people feel sleepy after lunch. Not feeling full after lunch will allow you to operate at a higher level at the office.

Most of us have been taught to have a light breakfast, a more robust lunch, and a big meal for dinner. Ironically, it should be the other way around. The problem is a big meal for dinner is something most people don’t want to change. Therefore, we should go to work on the other two meals.

For many people in the West, breakfast consists of a banana, cereal, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich. So, by the time lunch rolls around, it’s not surprising they’re hungry. The large lunch leads them to be sleepy in the afternoon. Instead, consider having a more substantial breakfast that will see you through the day. That way, lunchtime can be nothing more than a snack, allowing your mind to stay sharp until you finish up for the day.

Suggestion: A few small changes in your diet can lead to improved productivity at the office.

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4. Breathing

Breathing is another undervalued technique to boosting our performance. Patrick McKeown’s The Oxygen Advantage, James Nestor’s Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, and Wim Hof’s The Wim Hof Method: Activate Your Full Human Potential all delve into the power of breathing and oxygen.

Brendon Burchard, the bestselling author of Life’s Golden Ticket: A Story About Second Chances and the creator of High-Performance Academy, says, “I don’t hope to have energy. I generate energy.” He does this through a series of breathing and physical exercises and it’s remarkable how effective these are in helping us boost performance.

Suggestion: Take the time to learn how to breathe as it can an effective way to boost energy or relax your body.

5. Reward Your Body

Another long-term solution to help us stay awake at work is by rewarding our bodies. Our bodies work hard for us. The daily grind can take its toll on our bodies over time, which is why it’s critical to reward our bodies.

Massages are an excellent way to reduce pain and muscle soreness while improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure. Nice warm baths can also achieve similar results. Massages and baths help battle insomnia, reduce injuries and anxiety, help with joint pain, and much more.[5][6]

Suggestion: Schedule regular massages into your month.

Bottom Line

Learning how to stay awake at work is a real challenge for millions of people the world over. Many turn to caffeine in the form of coffee to give them the boost they need, but it’s a short-term solution for a long-term problem. Instead, we should focus on changing a few of our daily habits. The results will astound you and with any luck, you’ll be able to kiss the caffeine habit goodbye.

More Tips on How to Stay Awake at Work

Featured photo credit: Ilya Pavlov via unsplash.com

Reference

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