Brain fog is a feeling no doubt familiar to many of us. We live in a distracted and disjointed world, where our attention is constantly pulled in many different directions. Our sleep patterns are disrupted by screens and caffeine. We don’t always have time to fuel our bodies properly, leading to a lack of proper cognitive nutrition. All of these factors and more contribute to brain fog; the slow, sticky feeling that your brain is still running on dial-up Internet. We aren’t always going to feel 100%, but there are ways to break through the mental molasses. Here are some tips for beating brain fog and keeping you at your best.
Get Enough Sleep
This might seem like an obvious one, but in practice, it’s not so simple. For many people, getting a good night’s sleep isn’t as simple as tucking into bed with the lights off. Distractions from our phones, light and noise pollution, anxiety over the day to come; all of these can prevent us from getting that full 40 winks.
Certain lifestyle changes can make a huge difference when it comes to beating brain fog. First, try not to consume caffeine or other stimulants after 2 PM. Caffeine can stay in your system for hours, disrupting the body’s natural sleep hormones and preventing you from feeling tired when you should.
You should also try to refrain from using your phone or other electronic devices for at least an hour before bedtime. LED screens produce blue light, a wavelength that our brains interpret as sunlight. This interferes with our circadian rhythms, meaning we stay awake longer and our sleep quality is reduced. Not only does staying off your phone reduce your blue light intake, but it may also help your mind rest.
If these tips aren’t cutting it and you’re still waking up tired, you may find supplementing with natural sleep-aid products is effective. Unlike pharmaceutical sleep aids, these products aren’t habit-forming and won’t leave you feeling drowsy the next day. Melatonin, which is a natural sleep hormone produced in your body, is a readily available sleep aid many people find effective. Other options include L-theanine, a relaxing amino acid derived from tea leaves. CBD, another plant-based product, acts on natural receptors in your brain to reduce anxiety and instill a feeling of calm. Ask your Martindale’s supplement associate which products might be right for you.
Drink Enough Water
It’s old hat at this point, but many people still fail to keep themselves properly hydrated. We all know water makes up roughly 60% of our bodies, but it’s especially important for your brain function. The brain itself is almost 75% water, so you can imagine why it’s so important to keep it well-supplied with fluid. When we’re dehydrated, our brains actually shrink, restricting blood flow and neural activity. Dehydration also causes our blood pressure to drop; when less blood circulates to our bodies, we can feel weak, tired, and can’t think as clearly. Drinking enough water is key to beating brain fog.
It can be hard to ensure that we drink enough water, but there are ways to promote increased hydration. Carrying a reusable, high-capacity water bottle with you throughout the day is a great idea – keep it on your desk and take a sip every 15 minutes or so.
Not a fan of the taste of water? Some tap or even bottled waters have a strong earthy taste that can be off-putting. Switching to pure bottled waters can eliminate this taste, as can installing a water filter on your tap. Alkaline waters are also a great shout; these are pH balanced for taste and consistency. If you need a quick boost of hydration, coconut water is the way to go. It’s full of electrolytes and has a yummy, refreshing taste.
Keep your Brain Well-Fed
Food is fuel for our bodies, and some fuel is simply better than others. This is especially true when it comes to the brain, which runs mostly on glucose and requires a number of specific nutrients to function at its best. Beating brain fog is contingent on supplying your brain with the correct materials.
When it comes to your brain, omega-3 is number 1. Omega-3s are a class of fatty acids found in fish, eggs, and nuts. Omega-3s act as anti-inflammatories for your brain, and help regulate cellular communication. In studies, animals fed diets without sufficient Omega-3 content performed worse on cognitive tests than animals with access to the fatty acid.
Certain vitamins are also especially brain-beneficial; B12 and folate in particular help keep your brain sharp. Milk, eggs, and beef are great food sources of B12 (if you are vegan, consider using B12 supplements.) Dark, leafy greens are your best bet for folate.
Lastly, make sure you are eating your antioxidants. A number of outside factors (emotional stress, trauma, sleep deprivation) cause our brains to undergo oxidative stress, which may contribute to cognitive issues or neurological conditions down the line. Certain antioxidant compounds, such as turmeric and vitamin E can help prevent these reactions. Over time, this leads to a stronger, better-functioning brain.
This world of ours can wear our brains down, so it’s important to build them back up. Take care of your body’s most important organ by eating right, hydrating correctly, and getting enough rest.