Brain fog during the menopausal transition is very real. So, if you’re forgetting why you entered a room or where you left your phone, or you find it hard to concentrate on everyday tasks, you are not alone. In fact, 60% of women report difficulty with concentration and other cognitive issues during the menopause transition.
Sometimes also referred to as mental fatigue, foggy brain and menopause can interfere with your work and your life depending on their severity. It can be discombobulating, and you can feel as if you are losing your mind, which can be frightening. However, it's not permanent, and in most cases, it isn’t a cause for concern.
"Brain fog" is not a medical term; it’s the popular name used to describe the many cognitive symptoms that people often describe. Some refer to a “cotton wool” feeling or a “fuzzy head,” while others describe the symptoms as:
- Feeling distracted
- Having poor concentration
- Having the inability to focus
- Suffering time lapses
- Misplacing items
- Forgetting words and names
Many women report brain fog during perimenopause—the phase leading up to menopause when your hormones start to fluctuate—and also within the first year after your periods have stopped. Research suggests this is most evident in women during the first year following their final menstrual period.
The good news is that symptoms usually resolve themselves once you have completed your menopause transition. Experiencing these symptoms does not necessarily increase a woman's risk of dementia as she ages.
What Causes Brain Fog
It's believed that a mix of shifting hormones, everyday stressors, and fatigue contribute to foggy brain and menopause.
During perimenopause, your estrogen levels start to rise and fall at uneven rates. Studies show that fluctuating estrogen can lead to brain fog. Although scientists don’t know exactly how estrogen affects memory, it's thought that the hormone may have a role in how signals get sent to the areas of the brain involved with memory and information processing.
Sleep is so important to brain health, but waking during the night is one of the most common types of sleep problems for women during this phase. With up to 85% of menopausal women experiencing hot flashes, often occurring at night, it's hardly any wonder why getting a good night’s sleep is difficult.
During this phase of your life, you are often under tremendous stress. Balancing work, family life, relationships, finances, and maybe even looking after an older parent can take a huge toll and eventually impact concentration.
How To Manage Menopausal Brain Fog
Implementing some of the following lifestyle changes can help improve not only your overall health during this transition but your mental strength, too.
Nutrition plays a big role in brain health. Your brain will go into economy mode when it has a low level of nutrients, so consistently eating a well-balanced diet such as the Mediterranean Diet, with lots of nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich foods, can help. Some great brain foods are those that include omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish like salmon and vitamins A, C, and E found in whole grains, legumes, nuts, dark leafy greens, red peppers, avocado, blueberries, kiwi, oranges, eggs, and lentils.
Staying hydrated improves brain function, especially when you're experiencing foggy brain and menopause. Hot flashes and night sweats can cause excessive sweating, leading to dehydration. Since our bodies during menopause retain less moisture (around 55% compared to 60-70% when we were younger), it’s important to drink plenty of water.
It’s vital to stay active during the menopause transition, so try to exercise regularly. The CDC recommends aiming for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity. It may sound like a lot, but try splitting it up into manageable increments of 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Brisk walking, swimming, jogging, dancing, strength exercises, and yoga are all great options. Exercise will not only boost your mood but also buffer against stress and improve your sleep quality.
Many women experience sleep disturbances during menopause. Establish a daily wind-down routine prior to bedtime, and create a comfortable sleep environment. Try natural fiber bed linens, dim the lights, and avoid TV and computer screens right before bed. Keep your bedroom cool, and try practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation before bedtime.
Mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga are all great ways to help reduce stress and anxiety. Take a meditative walk by slowing down your pace, concentrating your breathing, and putting an even amount of weight on each leg. Swimming can naturally draw you into a rhythm with your breath as you take each stroke. Floating in water can also help eliminate distractions. You can also make a cup of tea; the simple act of slowing down and the process of drinking a warm drink can bring you comfort and invite you to be more present.
Exercise Your Brain
Memory exercises are important during these phases of your life. Just like the muscles in our body, our brain is like a muscle that needs to be challenged to help us stay sharp. If you're experiencing foggy brain and menopause, try challenging your brain in enjoyable ways by doing crosswords or sudoku and reading. Try engaging in interesting discussions, or maybe even take up a new skill, such as learning a new language or instrument.
Consider Hormone Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be an option to manage menopausal symptoms. It’s important to discuss the benefits and risks with your healthcare provider to make an informed decision that suits your needs. HRT comes in different forms, including gels, patches, and pessaries. It may be a case of trial and error, so don’t be surprised if it takes a little time to find the best option for you.
Time for a Health Check-Up
It’s important to have regular check-ups during the menopausal transition to rule out any other issues.
Memory problems during this phase of life are common due to a combination of factors. It’s important to get a healthcare check-up, eat well, exercise, keep your mind active, and get some good sleep.
NOTE: This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. It should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.