Increasing Numbers of Americans Are Experiencing Brain Fog. Here's How to Manage It.

Derek Beres

Derek Beres

Woman standing on mountain looking into fog

Brain Fog Nation

Johns Hopkins psychiatrist, Dr. Kali Cyrus, has recently been taking naps between patients—a new habit for her. This lethargy is affecting her entire day. She recently told NPR that she’s been going to bed earlier than normal and finding it harder to wake up than normal. 

Cyrus isn’t alone. An American Psychological Association survey found that 76 percent of Americans believe the pandemic is a “significant source of stress,” and one manifestation of that stress is brain fog.

While researchers are confident that human resilience will help us turn the corner as the pandemic loosens its grip on society, brain fog has been widespread

One big factor in brain fog is sleep—specifically, the lack of it. Self-care practices like meditation, breathing techniques, and gratitude journaling are all ways to relax your nervous system, especially in the evening when willpower is depleted and screen time increases

There’s another important factor that contributes to brain fog that warrants attention: your diet. 

Managing Brain Fog

Brain fog occurs when neurons don’t communicate well with each other. This causes brain function to diminish, resulting in the symptoms of brain fog

  • Lack of focus
  • Irritability between meals
  • Inability to recall memories
  • Dependence on caffeine
  • A general sense that something is “off”

One factor is blood sugar that swings too low or too high—both conditions tend to produce similar effects. 

If blood sugar variability is the reason you're experiencing brain fog, first envision a pie chart. 

Pie chart over forest background

  • The green half represents fiber, whose job is to slow down digestion, which in turn creates a more stable blood sugar response. 
  • The yellow quarter is protein and fat. Since these macronutrients take longer to break down, they provide a stable blood sugar response. 
  • The white quarter represents starchy carbohydrates. Starch raises blood sugar levels and is best consumed alongside fiber, fat, and protein. This will create a gentle rise and fall in your blood sugar levels.

Blood sugar isn’t dependent on diet alone. Regular exercise is essential for helping your body burn glucose and use insulin, which helps keep your levels balanced. 

Cutting down processed foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates is also important for maintaining healthy blood sugar. A regular meal schedule with sustainable portions factors in as well. 

As NPR notes, returning to a regular schedule will help alleviate brain fog in many people. Yet a sizable portion of the population is now part of the remote workforce and must adapt to changing circumstances.

The good news is that brain fog is not an indictment when you learn how to navigate this new environment. Begin by looking at what's on your plate.