Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten why we’ve you went in there in the first place?
Maybe you’ve fleetingly stopped in your tracks, grasping to remember your own name for a microsecond?
There’s a name for this unsettling mental phenomenon: ‘brain fog’.
Symptoms of so-called ‘brain fog’ include forgetfulness, poor concentration, inability to focus and lack of mental clarity, all of which can strike without warning.
It’s worth noting that although ‘Brain fog’ can be attributed to age-related decline and a host of illnesses, it can also strike anyone at any age – even as early as your late teens.
So why do we have ‘brain fog’ and how can we beat it?
For starters, your brain works hard 24/7, even while you’re asleep. It requires a constant supply of fuel, which comes from the foods you eat. Eating high-quality foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress or the ‘free radicals’ produced when the body uses oxygen, which can damage cells.
No surprises here, but eating too much sugar and refined carbs can have a negative effect. Thankfully, eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help.
Shifting from a diet high in processed foods, carbs, and sugars to whole, fresh foods like salmon and spinach could make a huge difference to your mental clarity. Foods rich in antioxidants – like blueberries, dark chocolate, and artichokes – can also help boost mental function (yes you heard right, DARK CHOCOLATE).
Besides diet, ‘brain fog’ can also be stimulated by alcohol and caffeine. In 2015, scientists from Duke University warned that binge drinking as a teenager, before the brain is fully developed, causes long-lasting changes to the regions of the brain that control learning and memory.
Numerous studies have also suggested that even moderate adult drinkers risk significant shrinkage in key parts of the brain. In July, the University of Oxford and University College found that people who have a drink or two every night from middle age are more likely to experience a steep decline in brain power by their 70s.
Caffeine is a stimulant known to improve mental alertness. But the problem with caffeine is that the energy it gives us is short-lived. Drinking too much can lead to insomnia, headaches and dehydration – and as a result, can impair your mental function.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists says the best way to give up caffeine is to gradually stop having all caffeine drinks (this includes coffee, tea and cola drinks) over a three-week period. Try to stay off caffeine completely for a month to see if you feel less mentally fatigued without it – your brain will thank you for it in the long run.
The final way to beat ‘brain fog’? Sleeping for at least seven to eight hours each night helps to boost your brain performance. Another reason to put good quality shut-eye front and centre in your daily routine. Zzzzzzzz.