You’re wondering why you’re at the grocery store when you bump into someone whose name you just can’t remember. Welcome to menopause brain fog.
House keys seem to have a mind of their own?
Forgotten the name of the colleague you see every day?
Not sure what you came to buy in the store you just walked into?
If you feel as though your brain has been swapped out for cotton candy, you may be experiencing menopause brain fog.
Yep, it’s a real thing. And you’re definitely not alone.
While the research into menopause and brain fog is still relatively young, we’re learning that the changes that happen in our bodies over this time have very real effects on our cognitive function.
First off, talk kindly to yourself. You’re still as super smart and capable as you’ve always been.
Your brain is just going through a phase.
And it’s likely that it will end.
In this article: 📝
- What is menopause brain fog?
- What causes brain fog in menopause?
- How long does menopause brain fog last?
- What helps with brain fog during menopause?
- Menopause and brain fog: the bottom line
What is menopause brain fog?
The average age to hit menopause is somewhere between 50 and 52 — but the spectrum is vast, and we don’t all fit neatly into averages.
When we talk about menopause, we’re specifically talking about the moment 12 months after your period stops for good.
But rather than see menopause as a single moment in time, it can be more helpful to understand it as a chapter in life.
Perimenopause usually starts about four to six years before menopause — and can bring with it some rather uncomfortable symptoms.
The infamous ones are hot flashes and vaginal dryness, but there are a few others on the list.
Menopause brain fog is most certainly up there, with as many as two-thirds of women saying they experience memory problems or trouble focusing.
So what’s fueling this fog machine? We’ll take you through the details.
What causes brain fog in menopause?
There are a few possibilities here.
As much as our sex hormones regulate our reproductive systems, they also help with the workings of our brains.
One of the key hormones here is estrogen, which tends to go through highs and lows during the menopause transition, until our bodies stop producing it once we hit menopause itself.
Recent research has shown that estrogen is instrumental to our brain function and structure.
When it declines, you may feel the effects in all sorts of ways, including depression and anxiety, and, yes, brain fog.
Interestingly, hot flashes are actually a result of brain function, too.
While they feel like a whole body experience, they stem from the workings of your hypothalamus, a busy area of your brain that operates like a control center.
And there’s also research to suggest a link between the severity of hot flashes and a decrease in verbal memory.
So if you’re struggling to think of the word for the implement in your hand, your favorite place to visit, or the person you just bumped into, it could very well be connected to the changes your body and brain are currently going through.
If you’ve noticed that sleep is a little harder to come by these days, you’re not alone.
Sleep disturbances during the menopause transition are common.
Hormones have a role to play here too. And as for trying to sleep while you’re experiencing symptoms like night sweats — well, “challenging” may be an understatement.
We probably don’t need to tell you that disrupted sleep is no friend to brain function.
Sleep disturbances have all sorts of effects on our brains.
If you’re feeling like your emotions are all over the place, that it’s harder for you to learn new things, and that recalling recent memories is not too easy, a lack of quality sleep may be to blame.
Menopause and the chapter surrounding it can be super stressful.
There are big changes afoot in your body — much of which can leave you feeling out of control.
Couple this with the fact that so many other transitions may be taking place in your life at this point, from career shifts to children leaving home — and it’s totally normal to feel out of sorts.
The connection between stress and brain fog is real.
How long does menopause brain fog last?
This is a tricky one to answer because we all experience menopause symptoms so differently.
Along with other perimenopause symptoms like hot flashes and sleep disturbances, brain fog may last for four years on average — but could also be around for far longer or shorter than that.
And brain fog is pretty unique as a menopause symptom.
That’s because it may occur simultaneously with memory loss that happens as we age.
As well as this, brain conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s are also more common as we get older.
So frustratingly, there’s no easy answer regarding how long menopause brain fog will last, as we all have such different factors that come into play in our personal stories.
If you’re at all worried about your brain function, reach out to your doctor.
You don’t have to simply grin and bear it — and the sooner you know what’s at the heart of it, the easier it will be to take steps to live a full, happy life.
What helps with brain fog during menopause?
Luckily, there are some measures that you can take that go a long way to helping you lift the fog.
Here’s how to beat menopause brain fog — with the caveat that it may put up quite a fight.
Getting in the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise is good for your muscles, balance, and heart. But as it turns out, it’s great for your brain too.
Recent research has shown that regular aerobic exercise may even increase the size of the hippocampus, the area of your brain that’s all about verbal memory and learning.
OK, getting a good night’s sleep, may not always be that easy (thanks, insomnia) but do what you can to prioritize it.
Try to get into a bedtime routine where you go to sleep at the same time every night.
Make sure your room is dark and cool and free of digital distractions.
And if none of that works, check in with your doctor about medications that may help with sleep.
Try stress-relieving activities
This could be anything from nature walks to art therapy to meditation practice.
Key into what works well for you, and then make sure it’s a part of your schedule.
Learn new things
Find something that interests you and dive straight in.
If you choose something that will challenge you, you will likely see improvements in memory.
Artistic endeavors like music and dance also have serious benefits.
And this research showed that you shouldn’t only learn one new thing — but three.
Learning several things at once and switching between them is a great way to give your brain a boost.
So, learn a language, take a course on bees, sign up for dance class, figure out how to fix a motorbike, or do all of the above.
Play memory games
Repeating information to yourself, attaching information to visual or audio cues, or coming up with tricks like rhymes or mnemonics can all help.
While hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help with many other menopause symptoms, the jury is out on whether it helps with brain fog.
But the research is ongoing here and will hopefully lead us to a better understanding of what treatments work best for these symptoms in the future.
Menopause and brain fog: the bottom line
Yes, menopause brain fog is real.
No, you’re not imagining it.
And no, you don’t have to simply battle through it.
Speak to your doctor to get to the bottom of why exactly you’re experiencing your symptoms.
Prioritize rest, relaxation, and fulfilling activities.
And seek support — whether from your friends and family, a counselor, or your Peanut community.
You don’t have to do this alone.
We wish you all the best.