Brain fog—a term used to describe the sluggish, cloudy feeling you get in your head when you can't focus, feel exhausted but can't sleep, forget things, or start making simple mistakes.

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Brain fog can come with stress, poor sleep, and overexertion, but if yours is persistent, gets in the way of your day-to-day life, or negatively affects your mental health, you should talk with a healthcare provider. There may be an underlying cause.


Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease where your immune system mistakes your body’s healthy cells as invaders and attacks them, causing inflammation and pain. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common form of the disease.The lupus community sometimes refers to brain fog as “lupus fog.” It presents itself as lapses in memory, difficulty concentrating, and confusion. In some people, the symptoms are bad enough to interfere significantly with daily life. Lupus-related brain fog usually ebbs and flows.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease where lesions on the central nervous system can affect motor function, emotions, cognition, or how clearly you think. People with MS sometimes refer to their brain fog experience as “cog fog” (short for “cognitive fog”).Brain fog may get worse during multiple sclerosis flares and can be exacerbated by heat on a hot day, in a hot room, or when you have a fever.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

It’s no surprise that a condition where fatigue is the main symptom also brings brain fog. An overview published in 2013 in Frontiers in Physiology defines chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) as physical and cognitive fatigue that lasts more than six months. Also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), it’s not improved with rest or sparked after a high-energy day. People with CFS describe experiencing sluggish or hazy thinking, difficulty focusing and concentrating, and forgetfulness.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a good example of a condition that starts with the gut but can result in symptoms all over.

When people with celiac disease eat gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains, the immune system attacks the small intestine, producing an array of gut-related symptoms like abdominal pain or bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.

People with celiac-related brain fog report feeling disoriented, unable to focus or pay attention, and forgetful.


Migraines are severely debilitating, with symptoms ranging from intense head pain to nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. This can create a foggy feeling in your brain, to say the may experience brain fog up to 48 hours before and 24 hours after a migraine. In the hours or days after a migraine, this brain fog may be part of what some migraine patients call a “migraine hangover,” also known as “postdrome.” As you may guess, the brain might not exactly feel clear after a migraine.

Underactive Thyroid

Your thyroid hormone controls your body’s energy. When it’s gone awry, you can feel it all over. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can lead to weight gain, sluggishness, and depression.

Thyroid-related brain fog means trouble concentrating, memory issues, spacing out, and confusion. In a survey published in March 2022 in Endocrine Practicepatients with hypothyroidism who had reported feeling brain fog associated it most with fatigue and forgetfulness. Brain fog can be disruptive to everyday life. In a review published in May 2022 in Thyroid, researchers noted brain fog left people with hypothyroidism feeling distress and a diminished quality of life.


When a person’s menstrual cycle ends permanently, they enter menopause. This typically occurs in your 40s or 50s. Brain fog is a lesser-known menopause symptom.

A review published in July 2016 in Menopause noted women going through menopause reported feeling forgetful and having difficulty concentrating. Previously, a 2013 study also published in Menopause found that women first transitioning into menopause experienced more cognition issues—specifically, verbal learning and memory, motor function, and paying attention—than women in later menopausal stages. So it seems as you first enter menopause, you may feel more brain fog.


You have likely heard the term “pregnancy brain” when referring to the brain fog pregnant people experience.

Understanding how pregnancy affects cognitive ability requires more research. However, in a study published in May 2014 in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, pregnant and postpartum people did more commonly self-report memory difficulties.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome, better known as PMS, brings with it a slew of symptoms: abdominal and back pain, headache, nausea, and anxiety, to name just a few. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of PMS. Both PMS and PMDD symptoms can range from uncomfortable to downright debilitating. Brain fog can also be a frustrating symptom. Some people call this “period brain.”

Depression and Anxiety

You may associate depression with feeling sad or losing interest in your favorite activities, but it also can affect how you feel and think . You may actually find your thinking and speaking slows down, or you have difficulty focusing, making decisions, and remembering things.Anxiety disorders can also cause brain fog, according to a review published in March 2016 in Psychological Bulletin. Unfortunately, the aftermath of depression and anxiety brain fog could lead to worse feelings about yourself and make it difficult to reach out for help. But you do have options.

Sleep Disorders

Most of us know how our mental processes slow after a restless night. It happens!

But people with diagnosed sleep disorders may have more severe and more frequent brain fog. As you may expect, sleep deprivation can lead to severe brain fog. Feeling tired throughout the day may leave you unable to pay attention or make decisions, according to a study published in May 2019 in Accident Analysis & PreventionYou may often feel confused or have difficulty completing tasks. A study published in December 2016 in the Journal of Sleep Research also found that sleep deprivation can lead to the creation of false memories.

Sjogren’s Syndrome

The classic symptoms of the chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease Sjogren’s syndrome are dry eyes and dry mouth.

A systematic review published in April 2019 in Brain Sciences found that in some cases, cognitive challenges were the “first clinical manifestation” of Sjogren’s, appearing before an official diagnosis was made. Researchers concluded that further studies are required to understand the relationship between Sjogren’s and cognitive dysfunction, noting the brain fog may be a result of another Sjogren’s symptom: fatigue.


Fibromyalgia is seen more often in women than men. It is a chronic disorder that causes widespread tenderness and musculoskeletal pain, along with fatigue, memory problems, and more. There is no specific test for the condition, so it can take time to be correctly diagnosed.

People with fibromyalgia report experiencing brain fog, sometimes called “fibro fog,” which includes forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and brain foggines.Fibromyalgia pain also makes it difficult to sleep and comes with increased fatigue, two things that can exasperate brain fog.

Cirrhosis of the liver is a type of chronic liver disease most commonly caused by heavy alcohol use or hepatitis C.People with cirrhosis can develop a condition called hepatic encephalopathy (HE), a nervous system disorder, which can have cognitive effects.



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