There is no doubt that as we age, our brain starts to work slower and we begin to have momentary lapses of confused thinking. This is a natural process that almost everyone goes through. However, do you know that this sort of brain fog and fatigue can actually be accelerated by certain conditions? Many times we tend to neglect the simplest of factors that are responsible for our confused state of mind. A good night’s sleep is one such factor that we often overlook. Everyone knows that getting a good night’s sleep makes us feel much better and refreshed. We feel energetic after our body has had the proper time to recharge and rest. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that getting good sleep is actually also crucial for our brain’s health. Without adequate sleep, our brain cells will quite literally start to slow down. How else does sleep deprivation affect our brain? Read on to find out more.
What is a Brain Fog or ‘Foggy’ Brain?
To begin with, we must first explore what is a brain fog or what is meant by a “foggy brain?” Also known as brain fatigue, brain fog is a state of mild to a severe mental confusion that can strike without any warning. During such episodes, it becomes difficult to experience a lack of focus, reduced mental acuity, and have a poor memory recall. Until unless the underlying cause of brain fog is not treated, the condition will continue to occur. Brain fog can even become a serious issue that can start impacting your personal and professional life.
While brain fog can be caused by a wide range of factors, one of the biggest causes of brain fatigue or foggy brain to set in is lack of sleep. Other causes of brain fog can include: neurological disorders, stress, diabetes, menopause, nutritional deficiencies and side effects of medications.
Why is Sleep Necessary to Avoid Brain Fog or “Foggy Brain?”
While we sleep, our body recharges and rests. During this time, our brain processes the information from the entire day and forms memories. If you lack proper sleep, then you are putting yourself at risk for developing many serious health issues, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and you may also impair the body’s ability to learn and retain new memories or information. Without getting adequate sleep, your brain becomes tired or fatigued. You can say that your brain becomes foggy, leading to a hindrance in your fine motor skills. You will also notice that your judgment becomes poor if you are sleep deprived.
- Sleep has a critical role to play in the body’s ability of learning and making memories. Both behavioral and imaging studies have shown that sleep affects our learning and memory skills in two ways:
- Sleep deprivation will impair an individual’s ability to learn and focus efficiently.
- Proper sleep is needed to ‘make a memory stick’, so that you can recall the same at a future time.
Researchers believe that sleep is the time period during which the brain consolidates a memory, making it become stable in the brain for future recall. When you are sleep deprived, your brain has a much more difficult time in absorbing and recalling new information. It is correct to say that sleep makes the brain sharper. Not only that, but sleep actually has an impact on your physical reflexes, your fine motor skills, as well as your ability to judge. A study has shown in recent years that sleep-deprived participants were more likely to assume that they are right in all circumstances, whereas, they were in fact, wrong. Memory tests have also shown that after a night of good sleep or even a small power nap, people tend to perform better across all fields of life, be it in the office, or on a test, in sports, etc.
How Does Sleep Help Your Brain Health?
While experts are unsure about the exact manner in which sleep enhances our memory, it is believed that the brain’s neocortex (part of the brain that stores long-term memories) and the hippocampus are somehow influenced by sleep. Researchers believe that while we sleep, the hippocampus replays the entire day’s events for the neocortex, which then reviews and processes these memories, and stores them for the long term.
How to Deal with Brain Fog?
The fact remains and our daily activities and work schedules often make it difficult to complete the desired sleep needed by our body. Having caffeine and prescription drugs such as Nuvigil or Provigil might provide you with some help to get through the day, but these are all temporary solution. If you are suffering from brain fatigue or brain fog due to lack of sleep, then here are some tips to help you get through the day.
Drink More Water To Combat Dehydration: Drink more water than what you normally would as the additional intake of water will make you get up frequently from your workplace to use the restroom. Your level of alertness will increase by getting up more frequently to relieve yourself.
Exercise Regularly To Get Rid Of Foggy Brain: Taking a walk or going to the gym will give you a boost of energy and increase your adrenaline levels, clearing away some of the brain fog.
Chew Gum: Chewing gum relieves sleepiness in the daytime and improves your alertness levels temporarily. Mint-flavored chewing gum is said to work best in clearing your foggy brain.
Avoid Eating Heavy Meals: Eat smaller meals instead as your brain will have a slowed reaction time to make you feel full. You will become prone to overeating. So opt for consuming some protein-rich foods, such as Greek-style yogurt or even eggs.
Start Your Day With Cold Shower: Begin your day with a cold system to shock your system into waking up fully. A cold shower also increases your heart rate and boosts the flow of oxygen to your body.
Avoid Driving When You Have Brain Fog: Do not drive when you are sleep impaired. It is the same as drunk driving and can prove to be dangerous.
Avoid Consuming Sugary Snacks: Sugar craving is one of the most common symptoms of sleep deprivation. Constant consumption of sugary snacks due to sleep deprivation will cause you to gain weight over a period of time. If you are carving something sweet, opt to have a fruit instead.
The fact remains that sleep is a biological necessity and we need it for our brain to perform optimally. The challenges of today often make it impossible for people to get seven to eight hours of sleep. While getting seven to eight hours of sleep is definitely not possible for most of us every night, we should still strive to make it a goal whenever possible. Let’s keep the smartphones and electronic gadgets aside and try to sneak in an extra hour worth of sleep to keep our brains healthy and avoid having a foggy brain.
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