We all know the feeling when we have tried to put the toast in the fridge and the butter in the toaster; walked into a room and can’t remember what we went there for; or spending several minutes hunting for a lost object only to find we’ve been holding it all along.
We like to think these are only momentary lapses, caused by a fleeting distraction. However, those suffering fibromyalgia report such incidents occurring more often than usual and affectionately term the symptom ‘fibro-fog.’
The most common symptom of fibromyalgia is severe pain, and this can have an effect on the rest of the body, both physically and mentally. Often memory lapses and confusion occur when trying to concentrate on several things at once, and if much of the energy of your brain is focussed upon dealing with pain, this increases your chances of being distracted or finding it difficult to concentrate.
Other research suggests that some patients with fibromyalgia do not receive enough oxygen into the brain, affecting cognitive performance, such as mixing up words and experiencing memory lapses.
Additionally, sleep problems and fatigue are also common with fibromyalgia. This can make it difficult to function and react quickly.
For some people, the symptoms of fibro-fog lift without treatment. However, many people notice that their symptom is cyclical, in that it sometimes improves before getting worse again.
As it is not a physical symptom, often the treatments are highly individual. Some people find that certain food supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, help to improve cognitive function.
For others, trying to include a little exercise into the daily routine helps to improve this symptom, as well as others, such as fatigue and stiffness.
Some people extol the wonders of daily brain training to reduce episodes of fibro-fog. This is possible in the form of crosswords or Sudoku, certain virtual cognitive games, or using your brain by learning new information, for example in learning a language.
Essentially, try to make life as simple for yourself as possible by making lists and keeping a diary of what is coming up. Try not to take on too much at once or you are likely to find that you are struggling to cope.
There is ongoing research into this condition, and so further solutions may arise in the future.
If you feel that your fibro-fog is worsened after a night of poor sleep, then attempting to establish a good sleep routine may be the most effective option. Our sleep hygiene tips may help you establish a good sleeping environment and routine. However, if you need a further helping hand, then Valerian is a herb widely found across Europe for improving quality of sleep. It is available in the licensed herbal remedy, Dormeasan® Sleep.
The Ginkgo Tree, also known as the memory tree, is one of the oldest medicinal herbs. Much research surrounds this herb in highlighting its efficacy in improving memory and brain function.
In some cases, the fibro-fog is worsened by certain medications prescribed by your doctor. If this is the case, it is worth discussing your treatment plan with him to see if alternatives can be taken to reduce your symptoms.
Your doctor may suggest cognitive behavioural therapy which teaches you to manage your condition more effectively. This is likely to help with other symptoms of fibromyalgia too.