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Brain Fog – When Brain Feels Like Cotton Wool

Brain Fog – Menopause Symptom # 6

Brain fog is a perimenopause symptom

Thoughts seem unfocused and unclear?

Forgot where you put your keys?

Can’t remember a name?

You are likely suffering from what is commonly named brain fog.

The Harvard Medical School says that “Brain fog is not a medical or scientific term; it is used by individuals to describe how they feel when their thinking is sluggish, fuzzy, and not sharp.”

What is Brain Fog?

When you think of perimenopause, the first symptoms that may come to mind are hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings. However, another of the most common menopause symptoms is ’brain fog’. In fact, Dr. Gayatri Devi says that “60 percent of women go through menopause-related cognitive impairment” which is often misdiagnosed. What Dr. Devi means by cognitive impairment is what we would call brain fog.

Just as women enter into their 40’s and 50’s, they may begin to have more difficulty focusing on tasks and may get forgetful and distracted. Many fear that this is the onset of some form of dementia and will often be too worried to discuss this problem and will tend to keep it to themselves. They may rationalize that it is due to stress or lack of sleep.


What are the symptoms of brain fog?

Common symptoms of brain fog are:

  • Finding it difficult to process information
  • Trouble finding the right words
  • Having trouble in problem-solving
  • Experiencing memory problems
  • Feeling unfocused
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Sometimes feeling disoriented
  • Difficulty in making calculations
  • Drawing a blank when trying to remember a name


Why do they happen?

Although the other problems of perimenopause such as fatigue, insomnia, and night sweats can contribute greatly to the feeling of brain fog, this is not the whole picture.

A six-year study of approximately 2000 women in mid-life found that other menopause symptoms did not account for the decrease in memory and the negative effect on the speed the brain processes information and learns.

The decline in estrogen that happens during the perimenopausal years affects brain function and causes this feeling of brain fog and difficulty in concentration.

Brain fog is a perimenopause symptom

How do I know if what I am feeling is a perimenopause symptom?

If you are beginning to get one or more of other perimenpause problems such as hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, night sweats, among others, the likelihood is that your memory issues and difficulty concentrating are because of the menopause transition.

You might think that stress, work, children and responsibilities are what are causing brain fog. This might be partially true, but a more likely explanation is the onset of perimenopause.


Will brain fog ever go away?

The good news is that the answer to this question is: Yes!

In her paper on perimenopause and cognition, Dr Gail Greensdale says – in ‘sciency’ language that “The contemporaneous impact of perimenopause on cognition appears to be both transient and subtle”. In other words, the negative effect on brain function in perimenopause is reversible. As with other menopause symptoms and menopause problems, brain fog is temporary for most women.

Brain fog is a perimenopause symptom

How can I manage when I am feeling like I can’t focus?

The following tips may be helpful:

1. Take it easy and slow down

Women often pride themselves on their multi-tasking skills. However, research has consistently shown that multi-tasking undermines efficiency. It also adds to the feeling of stress and distraction.

When you feel distracted, stop! Take a moment to breathe. Try to focus on your breathing and then bring yourself back to the task at hand.

If you are reading or trying to understand a piece of information, don’t hurry through it. Take it slow and allow your brain the chance to process the new information.

2. Use Mnemonics or memory tricks

There are proven ways of helping your memory along and assisting you in memorizing and recalling information.

Mnemonics (pronunced; nemonics) are one such method. They are ways to help and improve your memory. Basically, you use patterns, visualizations or rhymes to help you remember certain sequences. You can read a few tips on how to use mnemonics here.

Another way to help you remember is repetition. Repeat a piece of information that you want to remember a few times to yourself to help implant it in your memory.

3. Practice better sleep hygiene

Lack of sleep adds to problems with memory.

Establishing a regular sleep routine and staying off electronics before bedtime help in getting better and more restful sleep.

Some of the other things you can to improve the quality of your sleep are avoiding heavy meals before bedtime as well as caffeine and alcohol.

Read about the best strategies to ensure a good night’s sleep, here.

4. Get regular exercise

Exercise helps both your body and your mind. It improves circulation and raises the levels of endorphins and serotonin in your blood, causing you to feel better and more focused.

There is also evidence that that exercising moderately for three days a week increases the size of the part of the brain that is responsible for memory.

You don’t have to spend all your time in the gym or doing strenuous exercise. Just walking a few times a week can do the trick.

5. Manage Stress

Stress causes the production of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is what is called the stress hormone and causes the body to respond in a fight or flight mode. New research looking at more than 1,200 individuals found that people whose cortisol levels are high will find it more difficult to recall information.

There are many ways to manage stress: Eat good healthy food, exercise, try meditation or Tai Chi, listen to music, practice self-care regularly.

Of course, it is often easier said than done. However, if we are serious about taking care of ourselves and managing the menopause transition, it makes sense to do our best to manage stress.

6. Consider natural supplements

There is some evidence that certain supplements can help with memory. Some of these are:

Ginkgo biloba

Omega-3 (Fish Oil)

Vitamin E

Ginseng

Before taking any supplements or medications, it is important to check with your doctor and to discuss any possible interactions with other medications you might be taking.

Read more about perimenopause symptoms here in our previous blogs:

Hot flashes

Insomnia

Fatigue

Mood Swings

Night Sweats

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