Some of my best friends call it a “senior moment” when they forget, let’s say, the name of an actor or a specific date. Some others say it’s a “brain fart” when we lose the thread of a conversation. But more commonly, you zone out more often when you have a brain injury. And a stroke is one type of a brain injury in addition to other kinds of brain injuries, like a concussion or auto accidents or assault.
So welcome to the world of brain fog.
Let me say fatigue is different from brain fog. With fatigue, you “need,” rather than “want,” a nap. You lie down in the afternoon for a couple of hours and wake up feeling sort of refreshed. Until you’re standing, you might wake up and feel that something interrupted your nap–the alarm, in my case. (I set the alarm if I feel fatigued just so I don’t sleep too much that will interfere with sleeping at night. I’ve discovered that two hours before 1pm won’t disrupt nighttime sleep. It’s trial and error for you until you get it right).
But brain fog differs. Though it may have overlapping symptoms with fatigue, it’s more than just feeling tired. It’s when fuzzy thinking or the inability to feel sharp are present. You feel that you’re not yourself in that moment, and slow thinking, confusion, difficulty focusing, forgetfulness, or a haziness are also part of brain fog.
The top five things to do, if you have ruled out medications or other conditions that bring on brain fog, is to examine the following in your life:
The Center Disease Control (and recently added Prevention) says more than 35 percent of US adults are getting insufficient sleep which the CDC defines as less than 7 hours. The sad part is almost 12 percent of Americans are getting less than five hours a night. If you lie down and take a short nap, even a 15-minute power nap, you probably won’t compromise your sleeping at night. That’s what I do. Here’s what the rest of the country’s doing, sleep-wise.
- Newborns (0 – 3 months): 14 – 17 hours (with naps)
- Infants (4 – 11 months): 12 – 15 hours (with naps)
- Toddlers (1 – 2 years): 11 – 14 hours (with naps)
- Preschoolers (3 – 5 years): 10 – 13 hours (with naps)
- School-age (6 – 13 years): 9 – 11 hours
- Teenagers (14 – 18 years): 8 – 10 hours
- Young adults (18 – 25 years): 7 – 9 hours
- Adults (26 – 64 years): 7 – 9 hours
- Older adults (65+ years): 7 – 8 hour
DE-STRESS YOUR LIFE
- It pumps up your endorphins, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters.
- It’s meditation in motion. You’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements.
- It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, it can relax you, and it can lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety [leading to brain fog]. Exercise can also improve your sleep.
- Do what you love. Virtually any form of exercise or movement can increase your fitness level while decreasing your stress. The most important thing is to pick an activity that you enjoy. Examples include walking, stair climbing, bicycling [I have a recumbant bike, thanks to my kids], yoga [there is armchair yoga, too, where you sit down while performing yoga], gardening, and swimming.
- Pencil it in. Carving out some time to move every day helps you make your exercise program an ongoing priority.