Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on
December 30, 2021
Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on:

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Brain fog and fatigue are two very common symptoms that can have a variety of causes.

Sometimes fatigue and brain fog are just the results of lacking enough sleep or rest, but other times it may be something more serious. Both can lead to cognitive issues, low motivation levels, depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.

This post will go over the most common causes for brain fog or fatigue, as well as tips on how you can get relief from these conditions.

So, let’s get started.

What exactly is brain fog?

Brain fog is a term used to describe feeling like your brain is cloudy or not functioning as well as it should. You may feel like you can’t concentrate, think straight, or remember things as quickly.  

This term is also sometimes used to describe brain function issues that can occur when you have a fever or are dehydrated.

What exactly is fatigue?

Fatigue is a feeling of tiredness that many different things can cause. It can make it difficult to do everyday activities and may lead to feelings of frustration, irritability, and lack of energy.

There are two main types of fatigue: mental and physical.

Mental fatigue is the result of using your brain for prolonged periods of time and can be caused by activities such as studying, working, or attending social events.

Physical fatigue is the result of physical activity and can cause a person to feel tired after exercise or work.

Now that we know what brain fog and fatigue are, let’s take a look at some of the most common causes for each condition. 

Common Causes of Brain Fog

There can be many different causes for brain fog, but some of the most common include:

  • Dehydration
  • Lack of sleep or rest
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

All of these conditions can lead to a decrease in cognitive function and make it difficult to think clearly.

Common Causes of Fatigue

Many different things can also cause fatigue, but some common causes include:

  • Dehydration
  • Lack of sleep or rest
  • Physical activity such as running a marathon or working out at the gym for long periods of time
  • Pregnancy if your body is not used to the extra work
  • Mental activity such as working or studying for long periods of time

Just like brain fog, fatigue can also lead to a decrease in cognitive function and make it difficult to do everyday activities.

Now that we know some of the most common causes for brain fog and fatigue, let’s take a look at some tips on how you can get relief from these conditions.

Tips for Relieving Brain Fog

There are plenty of ways to alleviate brain fog, and what works for you may not work for someone else, but here are some of the standard methods that many people attest to be effective:

  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day to stay hydrated
  • Get enough sleep every night and get the right amount of rest during the day
  • Reduce stress levels by practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly

Tips for Relieving Fatigue

There are also a lot of strategies to relieve fatigue, and remember that one method may work for you but may not be as effective as another, but here are some of the most common ones that are deemed to be efficient: 

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water
  • Get enough sleep every night and take short naps throughout the day if needed
  • Restrict your physical activity and allow your body to recover
  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Take supplements such as iron or magnesium if you are

Both brain fog and fatigue can be debilitating conditions that affect your daily life. However, by knowing what they are and the most common causes, you can take steps to alleviate these symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Other Possible Reasons Why You Struggle With Fatigue and Brain Fog

There are many different reasons why you might be struggling with fatigue and brain fog. In some cases, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as:

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Also known as CFS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a condition that causes extreme fatigue and brain fog. 

CFS Causes

CFS is caused  by a variety of factors such as brain injury, depression, and the Epstein-Barr virus.

CFS Symptoms

Symptoms of CFS include:

  • Extreme fatigue that prevents you from doing everyday activities
  • Muscle pain throughout your body
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Stiffness in your joints and muscles
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Memory problems or difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of energy
  • Trouble sleeping

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is crucial to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

CFS Diagnosis

A doctor can diagnose you with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by seeing if your symptoms match the ones that are listed above.

CFS Treatment

Treatment of CFS may include medications to help reduce brain fog and fatigue. Other treatment options include the following:

  • psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy
  • regular exercise program (especially aerobic exercises)
  • avoiding caffeine and alcohol
  • taking supplements such as iron or magnesium
  • avoiding activities that cause fatigue and brain fog to worsen.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that causes dementia and affects memory, thinking, and behavior.

Alzheimer’s Disease Causes

The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is relatively unknown, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Memory loss including forgetting important information and events in your life, such as appointments or conversations with family members
  • Confusion about where you are or what time it is
  • Trouble performing tasks that require brainpower like cooking a meal
  • Difficulty speaking clearly and finding the right words
  • Withdrawing from activities you once enjoyed and socializing with family and friends
  • Behavior changes, such as becoming agitated, depressed, or paranoid
  • Loss of physical abilities like walking or bathing

Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis

A doctor can diagnose you with Alzheimer’s disease by performing brain scans and neuropsychological tests to measure your memory, thinking, and behavior.

Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment

Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease may include medications that reduce brain fog and fatigue. Other treatment options include the following:

  • physical and mental activities such as brain games and puzzles
  • family-focused therapy to help caregivers deal with the stress of caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease
  • rehabilitation therapies that can help improve memory, thinking, decision-making skills, or problem-solving abilities
  • healthy diet including plenty of proteins and healthy carbohydrates like vegetables and fruits. 

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that affects movement.

Parkinson’s Disease Causes

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is also generally unknown, and it is also believed to be caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include: 

  • Tremors or shaking in your hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
  • Slowed movements that cause you to shuffle when walking
  • Rigid muscles due to lack flexibility like stiff facial expressions and stiffness throughout the body.

Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis

A doctor can diagnose you with Parkinson’s disease by performing a physical exam and brain scans to look for the presence of dopamine-producing cells that have died off.

Parkinson’s Disease Treatment

Treatment of Parkinson’s disease may include medications to help reduce brain fog and fatigue. Other treatment options include the following:

  • physical therapy to help with movement and flexibility
  • occupational therapy to help you continue participating in activities that are important to you
  • speech therapy if you have difficulty speaking
  • support groups or counseling for emotional support.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a brain disorder that affects the central nervous system. 

MS Causes

The cause of multiple sclerosis is also unknown, but it may be caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors, especially when your immune system attacks its own tissues.

MS Symptoms

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:

  • Brain fog or brain fatigue that make thinking difficult
  • Muscle weakness in your legs or arms makes it hard to walk or use your hands for everyday tasks like brushing your teeth.
  • Tingling, numbness, or pain in different parts of your body.
  • Vision problems like blurry vision, double vision, and blindness.

MS Diagnosis

There is no one definitive test for multiple sclerosis, but brain scans are often used to look for lesions on the brain and spinal cord that indicate multiple sclerosis.

MS Treatment

Treatment of multiple sclerosis may include medications to reduce brain fog and fatigue, as well as other treatment options like physical therapy or surgery.

Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is a brain disorder that causes brain fog and fatigue.

Huntington’s Disease Causes

The cause of Huntington’s disease is also unknown, but it may be caused by a combination of genetic factors, including faulty huntingtin protein genes passed down through families.

Huntington’s Disease Symptoms

Symptoms of Huntington’s disease include:

  • Changes in the mood like depression or irritability
  • Problems with movement and coordination like unsteady walking or difficulty swallowing.
  • Slurred speech
  • Dementia is a decline in brain function that can cause problems with memory, thinking, decision making, and problem-solving.

Huntington’s Disease Diagnosis

There is no definitive test for Huntington’s disease, but brain scans and genetic tests can be used to look for signs of the condition.

Huntington’s Disease Treatment

Treatment options for fatigue and brain fog caused by Huntington’s disease may include medications such as antidepressants or antipsychotics that help reduce the symptoms. Other treatment options include: 

  • physical therapy to help with movement and coordination
  • speech therapy if you have difficulty speaking
  • support groups or counseling for emotional support.

Now, remember that simple causes like lack of sleep can cause fatigue and brain fog.

Before you worry about the severe condition listed above, try to get more rest and adjust your diet by eating brain-healthy foods that are rich in omega-three fatty acids found in fish like salmon or tuna. 

If the brain fog and fatigue persist, be sure to speak with your doctor.

How much sleep keeps cognitive decline at bay?

To keep cognitive decline at bay, aim to get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. Sleeping less than this can increase your risk of developing fatigue and brain fog.

Additionally, make sure you get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

If you still experience fatigue and brain fog after making these lifestyle changes, be sure to speak with your doctor. They may be able to help you identify and treat the underlying cause of your symptoms.

What can you do to clear the fog?

There are a few things you can do to help clear brain fog.

First, be sure to get enough sleep. Seven to eight hours per night is ideal.

Second, make sure you’re getting regular exercise. Exercise helps improve brain function and energy levels.

Third, eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These brain-healthy foods are rich in omega-three fatty acids, which help improve cognitive function.

Fourth, drink plenty of water. Dehydration can cause brain fog and fatigue.

Finally, try to reduce stress levels by practicing yoga or meditation. Stress can worsen brain fog and fatigue.

If you’re still struggling with brain fog after trying these tips, be sure to speak with your doctor so that they can help you identify and treat the underlying causes of your brain fog.

Concluding Thoughts

Fatigue and brain fog can be caused by stress, lack of sleep, or an underlying condition that affects brain function like chronic fatigue syndrome.

There are a few simple steps you can take to reduce brain fog, including: 

  • getting more rest
  • eating brain-healthy foods rich in omega-three fatty acids found in fish like salmon or tuna
  • exercising regularly
  • and reducing stress levels.

If the symptoms persist after trying deliberate lifestyle changes, ensure that you speak with your doctor about the possible causes. They may be able to help you identify and treat the underlying cause of your symptoms.

If you want to learn more about fatigue, brain fog, and overall brain health, check out our plethora of educational resources and feel free to join our online community of mental health advocates and professionals.

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