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Sleep, stress or hormones? Brain fog during perimenopause

Kelly Bilodeau, Harvard Health Blog on

Published in Health & Fitness

Often when people think of perimenopause, irregular periods and hot flashes come to mind. But some women may notice another symptom: brain fog.

You’re reading a letter and suddenly realize your thoughts have drifted off and you need to start again. Or you draw a blank when you’re trying to remember someone’s name, or find yourself standing in a room, wondering what you came there to get.

The good news is that these small cognitive blips are probably not anything you need to worry about long-term.

Sleep disturbances and stress may be part of brain fog

Those times when you are less focused and a bit forgetful are likely not just due to hormonal changes. Sleep quality, perhaps related to night sweats during perimenopause, could definitely contribute. Increased stress that sometimes accompanies this stage of life may also have you feeling frazzled and distracted. These factors can interfere with concentration and memory.

Not getting enough sleep can leave you feeling cranky and sluggish. This may be why you can’t remember what’s-her-name: you weren’t paying close enough attention when she told you her name in the first place.

Stress can have a similar effect by pulling your thoughts off task, because you’re preoccupied, worrying about something else.

What can you do to feel less foggy?

 

If this sounds like you, there are some things you can do to help lift the fog and get your brain re-engaged.

Know when to seek help

Most small memory lapses are nothing to worry about. If changes due to perimenopause — including irregular periods, trouble sleeping due to night sweats, or brain fog — bother you, talk to your doctor about possible solutions.

It’s also important to call your doctor if:

(Kelly Bilodeau is executive editor of Harvard Women's Health Watch.)

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