Welcome to our complete guide on how to cope with and possibly get rid of brain fog, forgetfulness, and cognitive dysfunction associated with migraine.
Migraine brain fog is a common condition in which a person has trouble thinking and feels like their mind is cloudy during and/or after having a migraine. Brain fog is a common symptom of the prodrome stage before a migraine, during the headache stage, and in the postdrome stage following a migraine attack. It can make it hard to concentrate, remember things, think quickly, and think clearly. This annoying side effect can greatly affect daily life, work, and the general quality of life.
I explain migraine associated brain fog to patients like this. Think of migraine as an electrical event throughout the brain, like your brain is immersed in an electrical storm. That electrical storm disrupts the normal brain circuitry and electrical pathways. The result is brain malfunction which can present clinically with many different nonspecific neurological symptoms including cognitive dysfunction and brain fog. Patients that are stuck in chronic migraine (15-30 headache days per month) almost always complain of a continuous sense of fluctuating brain fog and cognitive dysfunction because they are essentially “stuck” in this electrical storm of migraine. This can be very disruptive to normal functioning and life.
You’ve come to the right place if you are wondering how to get rid of migraine brain fog. We will talk about real-world techniques and changes to your lifestyle that can help you cope with brain fog after a migraine. Moreover, we will look into the link between migraines and brain fog, which will help us understand the main causes of this cognitive impairment. We’ll also talk about various ways, from prescribed medications to alternative therapies, to help you regain your mind and recover cognitive function.
How to Cope with Migraine Brain Fog and Forgetfulness
Take A Break From Screens
Rest your eyes and take frequent breaks. Computer screens (desktop, laptop, tablets, phones) are common migraine triggers because they emit a lot of blue light wavelength. Try to change your screen’s brightness and contrast settings, get a blue-light blocking screen protector for your device, or get a pair of migraine glasses. Don’t forget to blink! If you wear glasses or contacts for vision correction, ensure they are clean before using them again after taking off eye protection (like sunglasses). Also, remember that wearing hats with brims (like baseball caps) can help protect against bright sunlight–this is especially important if there’s no shade available nearby where you’re working at home on the computer.
Migraine patients’ nervous systems are in a hyperactive or hypersensitive state. This is why migraines trigger easier for them. They are overly sensitive to many types of stimuli at baseline, with visual stimuli being the most common. Bright lights and computer screens overstimulate their already overstimulated electrical networks and this can be very exhaustive to their brain.
If you’re like most people, you don’t realize how much time you spend staring at your computer. It’s easy to forget that the screen can damage your eyes if not used correctly! Following these tips and taking some simple precautions can reduce the risk of developing vision problems.
Get Enough Sleep And Rest
Sleep is very important for your brain health. Think of sleep as when your brain replenishes all of it’s neurotransmitters such as serotonin, acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine, etc. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals in your brain that underly cognitive processing, mood, energy, memory, attention, concentration, and many other important functions. If you are not getting into those deep restorative sleep stages, you can become deficient in neurotransmitter balance. This is why people with insomnia, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders often complain of many of these symptoms, due to non-restorative sleep and incomplete replenishment of neurotransmitters.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, while teens need 8-10 hours, and kids ages 6-12 need 10-13 hours each night. If you aren’t getting enough rest, your body will feel tired and sluggish throughout the day, in addition to many neurocognitive complaints as discussed above. Patients with migraine often have sleep disturbance complaints and this worsens not only their brain fog, but also their migraine frequency and severity.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night or staying asleep through the night, some things can help:
There are many techniques of sleep medication, such as the The 4-7-8 breathing technique. This was popularized in 2015 by integrative medicine specialist Andrew Weil, MD, but it has ancient yoga roots. It is performed like this:
Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds
Hold your breath for 7 seconds
Exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds
The one that I personally like to do if I can’t fall asleep is to recite something systematically in my head mentally. I haven’t read about this one anywhere, but it works every time for me. Maybe it’s a poem, song, or something else that follows a sequence involving words and numbers. For me, the one that I recite is the NIHSS (National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale). I typically don’t even make it half way through until I’m out cold. So if you’re a neurologist with insomnia, you can thank me later. If you’re not a neurologist, it might be worth learning! An added bonus is you can then also quickly analyze someone with stroke symptoms and impress the EMTs when they arrive, or the ER doctor!
Don’t toss and turn for too long
Try not to lie in bed for more than 20 minutes if you can’t fall asleep right away–it’s better for your body if you get up before this time has passed! Sometimes anxiety about falling asleep starts to kick in if laying in bed too long and worrying about not falling asleep. Then the adrenals start to release stress hormones, stimulatory neurotransmitters are released in the brain, and this all snowballs the insomnia and makes it worse. It might also be helpful to do some light reading before bedtime so that you don’t feel too tired once it comes time for sleep (but don’t read anything too exciting, like my blog:)).
-Limit screen time before bed. Electronic devices such as phones and computers emit blue light and this can disrupt your sleep.
-Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bed since these can disrupt your ability to fall asleep or get restorative sleep.
Eat A Brain-Healthy Diet
A brain-healthy diet that includes omega 3s, foods rich in vitamin B and magnesium can help alleviate brain fog and improve sleep.
Omega 3s are essential for brain health and the proper functioning of the central nervous system. Fish oils are a very potent source of omega 3s and have strong anti-inflammatory effects.
Vitamin B is also required by your body to synthesize neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which regulate mood and overall mental function.
Magnesium has been shown to reduce migraines by possibly reducing inflammation within blood vessels that supply oxygenated blood to the brain, and more importantly by modulating the electrical system involved in a migraine. Magnesium glycinate tends to be a good magnesium for sleep and anxiety. Magnesium threonate is helpful with cognitive function and brain fog symptoms. Magnesium malate is often more energizing and can be helpful in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
A deficiency in any of these nutrients can cause you to feel tired, forgetful or irritable all day long–and sometimes even worse at night when you’re trying to relax! Resting helps your body recover from whatever stresses were placed upon it during the day, so take some time off from work/school/errands, get some restorative sleep every night (try aiming for 7+ hours) and recharge those batteries!
Exercise can help relieve brain fog by increasing blood flow to the brain. You may have to experiment with different types of exercise to find one that works for you. Try walking, swimming, or even dancing–if it’s not too strenuous.
If you’re worried about hurting yourself while exercising, ensure your doctor knows what kind of physical activity they would recommend. Also, remember: fitness is more than just exercise! Eating right and getting enough sleep are important parts of staying fit and healthy.
Change Up Your Daily Routine
Try taking a break from your computer and from the daily grind whenever possible. Infuse in some exercise, meditation, and yoga somewhere into your daily routine. It’s important to rest and get enough sleep every night, including making sure you’re not looking at screens before bedtime. Keeping a regular schedule of meals and sleep can be very helpful. You should also eat a brain-healthy diet with omega 3s, foods rich in vitamin B and magnesium (like leafy greens), regular exercise, and mindfulness meditation to clear your mind and boost focus and attention.
If you’re looking for a more immediate solution, try doing something that burns off stress. Try taking a walk outside and breathing deeply (such as the 4-7-8 breathig technique discussed above), running or doing some yoga. You’ll feel better after just 15 minutes of exercise with natural endorphin release in the brain (for example, the “runner’s high”)!
Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation can be a great way to clear your mind and boost focus and attention. When practiced regularly, mindfulness meditation can help you to:
-Clear your mind of stressful thoughts lingering in them for too long. It will leave you feeling calmer and more at peace with yourself and the world around you.
-Focus on the present moment instead of worrying about past events or stressing about future ones (or even just thinking about what’s for dinner). It will help keep anxiety levels low so that it doesn’t affect your daily life negatively as much anymore!
Simple Lifestyle Changes
Migraine brain fog is a common migraine symptom and can make it difficult to concentrate and remember things. There can be contributions from many things such as poor diet, lack of sleep, stress and hormonal changes.
Brain fog can persist for several days after a migraine attack if you’re not getting enough rest or your lifestyle isn’t conducive to good health (such as eating too much processed food).
If you have trouble remembering things during a migraine attack, then try exercising regularly–it helps relieve symptoms such as brain fog because it releases endorphins that improve moods while boosting energy levels so that the body functions better overall! And don’t forget about mindfulness meditation–this has been proven scientifically over time.
If your brain fog after migraine lasts long or makes it hard to go about your daily life, you should see a doctor. Go to a neurologist who subspecializes in migraines (headache specialist) and the cognitive symptoms that come with them. A headache specialist can help you figure out how to get rid of migraine brain fog and ensure you get the support and care you need.
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