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Get back into a routine and sleep better to clear brain fog, says neuroscientist

According to Dr Sabina Brennan, the brain relies on patterns and rest to function well.

June 08, 2021 / 11:24 AM IST
Sleep early and sleep well, to fight brain fog.

Sleep early and sleep well, to fight brain fog.

A lifestyle driven by smartphones and social media had already started taxing our brains. The pandemic made it worse.

Many of us are spinning around in a vicious cycle. We get up late due to the previous night’s unwinding, which is anything but, as it typically involves staying up watching a show or surfing. We then do our office and domestic tasks. Till it’s again time to take long, eye-burning drags of Netflix, news debates or sports past midnight.

As a result, many of us are brain-fogged. We are unable to think clearly.

Dr Sabina Brennan, neuroscientist and author of the recent book Beating Brain Fog, has a few tips to clear your upper chamber. One is simple, though hard to stick to. Sleep early and sleep enough. We have to repay our “sleep debt”, as Brennan says.

Sleep was like “having the streets cleaned at night when there’s no traffic on them,” Brennan told CNBC.

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“That’s essentially what the brain really needs, is you not to be engaged in cognitive activity so that it can do a really deep clean and clear out those toxins,” she added.

Another key step to clear brain fog, Brennan said, was to “reintroduce routine” in our lives, as the brain relies on patterns to work smoothly.

She even advised bookending the day with a pretend commute that could just be a walk around the neighbourhood.

Before the pandemic, Brennan said that around 40% of our behaviours were habitual, and this was “essential in order for our brain to function effectively.”

She also said that the brain soaks up around 25 per cent of the nutrients we consume. The cerebral cortex, known as the “thinking part of the brain,” is the biggest consumer of energy.

In order to process this energy efficiently, the brain is constantly looking for patterns. This is so it can carry out “automated behaviour using far less resources,” Brennan said. The thinking part of the brain is really only engaged at the beginning and end of an activity, “like a bookend,” with the emotional, or limbic, section of the brain taking care of the rest.

“By definition, it’s effortless, it’s autopilot. You hear a lot about people saying we spend too much time on autopilotthat may be truebut we must spend some time on autopilot, otherwise our brain is overwhelmed completely,” Brennan said.

Brain fog is not a major ailment. It is not a “diagnosis, disease or a disorder,” Brennan said. But it does come in the way of our functioning and happiness. Taking the simple steps prescribed here should help you feel sharp and refreshed again.
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