Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on
June 8, 2022
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on:

Do you ever feel like you can’t focus on anything? Like your thoughts are a jumbled mess, and it’s hard to think clearly?

Or maybe you’re always tired, no matter how much rest you get. If this sounds familiar, you might be suffering from brain fog and fatigue.

Thankfully, there are things you can do to aid the unpleasant symptoms and bring back your mental clarity and energy. The first thing is to determine the causes of the problem.

In this article, we’ll discuss what causes brain fog and fatigue and what you can do to help address the problem.

Let’s get started.

What is brain fog, exactly?

Brain fog or mental fog is a cognitive state characterized by confusion, forgetfulness, and lack of focus.

Physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and muscle aches can accompany mental fog.

The term “brain fog” is often used to describe the feeling of mental exhaustion or “zoned out” that can happen after a long day.

It can also be a symptom of depression, anxiety, sleep deprivation, or sleep disorder.

People who experience brain fog often describe the condition as a mild cognitive impairment that usually lasts for a few days. However, others find it as a cognitive dysfunction that goes on for months.

What is fatigue, exactly?

Fatigue is a general feeling of tiredness or exhaustion. It’s different from drowsiness, which is the desire to sleep.

While drowsiness can come and go, fatigue is more constant and can last for days or weeks without relief.

Fatigue can be physical, mental, or both. A medical condition can also cause it, such as anemia or sleep apnea.

Fatigue and Brain Fog Symptoms

There are many signs of brain fog and fatigue. Here are some of the common symptoms:

  • Poor concentration
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Feeling forgetful or having trouble remembering things
  • Trouble with mental clarity or thinking processes
  • Increased difficulty in decision making
  • Trouble with problem-solving
  • Having a hard time finding the next words in conversations
  • Low mood or irritability
  • Exhaustion even after resting or sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Headaches
  • Body aches and pains

What causes brain fog and fatigue?

There are many potential causes of brain fog and fatigue. Here are 13 things to look out for and what you can do about them:

1) Stress

Stress can take a toll on your mental and physical health. It can cause mental fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, difficulty sleeping, or poor quality sleep. All of these symptoms can lead to brain fog.

A study published by Learning & Memory suggests that chronic stress can also damage the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

Management

If you’re constantly stressed, it’s important to find ways to manage it. This might include yoga, meditation, or talking to a therapist.

Other things you can do to manage your stress levels include: 

  • exercising regularly
  • getting enough sleep
  • eating a healthy diet
  • avoiding alcohol and drugs
  • spending time with loved ones
  • getting a massage
  • going out in nature 

2) Lack of sleep

Getting enough quality sleep is essential for your physical and mental health.

A study published recently in the Nature Medicine highlights how sleep deprivation impacts our brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other, resulting in brief cognitive lapses that impact visual perception and memory.

When you don’t get sufficient sleep, it can lead to fatigue, which can then cause brain fog.

In addition to making you feel tired, a lack of sleep can also:

  • decrease your ability to concentrate
  • weaken your immune system
  • decrease your red blood cells
  • affect your memory
  • make you irritable
  • lower your reaction time

Management

To get better sleep, it’s important to establish a bedtime routine. This might include reading or taking a bath before going to bed.

It’s also important to avoid caffeine and alcohol before sleep, as they can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.

Other things you can do to get better sleep include:

  • sleeping in a dark and quiet room
  • avoiding working or using electronic devices in bed
  • exercising regularly
  • avoiding heavy meals before bedtime
  • taking a hot bath before bedtime

3) Hormonal changes

Changes in hormones can cause symptoms of brain fog and fatigue, and a host of other issues.

During puberty, hormonal changes can lead to fatigue and difficulty concentrating.

Pregnancy and menopause are also times when hormone levels fluctuate, which can lead to brain fog and fatigue.

Management

If you’re experiencing brain fog and fatigue due to changes in hormones, you can do a few things to manage it.

This might include:

  • exercising regularly
  • eating a healthy diet
  • getting enough sleep 
  • using herbal supplements, such as chaste berry or black cohosh
  • taking birth control pills
  • talking to your doctor about hormone therapy

4) Poor diet

What you eat can affect your physical and mental health.

A diet that’s high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and processed foods can lead to brain fog, fatigue, and a host of other problems.

On the other hand, a diet that’s rich in whole foods, healthy fats, and protein can help improve your cognitive function and overall health.

Management

If you want to improve your diet, there are a few things you can do.

This might include:

  • eating more whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • limiting processed foods, sugary foods, and unhealthy fats
  • increasing your intake of healthy fats, such as Omega-three fatty acids
  • eating more protein, such as chicken, fish, and tofu
  • joining a cooking class
  • working with a nutritionist

5) Nutritional deficiencies

Certain nutrients are essential for your overall health, especially brain health.

If you’re not getting enough of these nutrients, it can lead to fatigue, brain fog, and a host of other problems.

Some of the most important nutrients for your brain health include:

  • Omega-three fatty acids
  • B vitamins
  • Vitamin D
  • Magnesium

Management

If you think you might be deficient in certain nutrients, there are a few things you can do.

This might include:

  • talking to your doctor about getting a blood test to determine any nutritional deficiencies
  • eating more foods that are rich in nutrients
  • taking dietary supplements
  • working with a nutritionist

6) Lack of movement or exercise

If you’re not getting enough exercise, it can lead to fatigue and brain fog.

Exercise is important for your overall health, including your mental health.

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects.

In addition, exercise can also:

  • increase energy levels
  • improve sleep
  • enhance brain function

Management

If you want to get more exercise, there are a few things you can do.

This might include:

  • joining a gym or fitness class
  • taking up a new sport or physical activity
  • going for walks or hikes
  • riding a bike 
  • exercising at home
  • working with a personal trainer

7) Dehydration

Dehydration can cause cognitive fog and tiredness, among other things.

When you’re dehydrated, your body doesn’t have enough fluid to function properly.

This can lead to:

  • decreased energy levels
  • difficulty concentrating
  • headaches

Management

If you want to stay hydrated, there are a few things you can do.

This might include:

  • drinking plenty of fluids, especially water
  • eating foods that are high in water content, such as fruits and vegetables
  • avoiding diuretics, such as caffeine and alcohol
  • taking breaks to drink fluids when you’re exercising or working in a hot environment
  • bringing a water bottle with you and sipping on it throughout the day.

8) Mental health conditions

Certain mental conditions can cause fatigue and brain fog.

For example, anxiety and depression are two common mental health conditions that can lead to these symptoms.

Other mental conditions that can cause fatigue and brain fog include:

  • Bipolar Disorder 
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Management

If you think you might have a mental health condition that is causing your brain fog and fatigue, there are a few things you can do.

This might include:

  • talking to your doctor about your symptoms
  • seeing a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor
  • joining a support group
  • taking medication prescribed by a doctor
  • doing relaxation exercises
  • practicing meditation or mindfulness

9) Covid-19 or long Covid

Fatigue and brain fog are among the lingering symptoms of Covid-19. This is because the virus can attack the central nervous system and cause inflammation.

In addition, Covid-19 can also lead to:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • insomnia

Management

If you’re dealing with covid brain fog,  there are a few things you can do.

This might include:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • eating a healthy diet
  • exercising regularly
  • avoiding alcohol and drugs
  • talking to a therapist
  • joining a support group.

Covid-19 can be a serious virus, so it’s important to talk to your doctor if you think you might have it.

10) Cancer and cancer treatments

Cancer and cancer treatments can both cause fatigue and brain fog.

Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can lead to:

  • anemia
  • nausea and vomiting
  • pain
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • anxiety

Management

If you’re dealing with chemo brain fog, there are a few things you can do.

This might include:

  • getting enough sleep
  • eating a nutritious diet
  • exercising regularly
  • refraining from drugs and alcohol
  • consulting a therapist

11) Other medical conditions

There are many other medical conditions that can cause fatigue and brain fog.

For example, conditions that affect the thyroid, such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, can lead to a lot of other symptoms.

Other medical conditions that can cause fatigue and brain fog include:

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia (i.e., fibro fog)
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Lyme Disease
  • Lupus (i.e., lupus brain fog)

Management

If you have a medical condition that is causing your brain fog and fatigue, there are a few things you can do.

This might include:

  • talking to your doctor about your symptoms
  • getting enough rest
  • eating a healthy diet
  • exercising regularly
  • taking medication prescribed by a doctor.

12) Medication side effects

Certain medications can cause fatigue and brain fog as side effects.

For example, some antidepressants, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), can lead to these symptoms.

Other medications that can trigger brain fog and fatigue include:

  • beta-blockers
  • statins
  • hormone therapy 
  • anticholinergics

Management

If you think your medication is causing your brain fog and fatigue, there are a few things you can do.

This might include:

  • talking to your doctor about your symptoms
  • switching to a different medication
  • lowering the dose of your medication
  • stopping your medication.

In Conclusion

Brain fog and fatigue can be frustrating and debilitating, especially when they start to impact your life negatively.

Some people experience dropping productivity at work, depleted energy when spending time with loved ones, and an overall loss of motivation.

Thankfully, there are management or coping strategies you can try to combat fatigue and brain fog, and the first thing you should do is identify the root cause so that you can come up with the right brain fog treatment.

And remember, your brain fog treatment depends on what suits you—what is working for some might not be the same for others.

If you want to learn more about brain fog and its natural remedies, check out these helpful resources and feel free to join this online community of brain health enthusiasts. 

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