Having headaches and experiencing brain fog are symptoms of an underlying medical issue. While both occur separately to indicate a problem, they might also happen simultaneously. If you’re experiencing headaches and foggy feelings in your head, the possible causes would include migraine, sleep deprivation, brain tumor, concussion, stress, anxiety, or depression. Treatment differs based on the issue causing these symptoms in the first place.
The feeling of your brain not working like it’s made of cotton candy is how you would describe it as having brain fog. Accompanied by a headache, this is the worst feeling to experience as you desperately try to get rid of both. Both are not medical conditions in themselves but a symptom of other possible health issues you might face.
With brain fog, it’s difficult to concentrate on anything, and with a headache on top, you can’t focus on your work or school. So it’s important to know what could be causing these symptoms before they become severe.
Let’s explore the issues responsible for your brain fog and headaches and how to get them treated!
Table of Contents
Feeling foggy in your head
This foggy feeling in your head can make you feel like your concentration has vanished, you can’t comprehend things around you, and you feel lost. Feeling this way can hamper your work or school, and nobody wants to feel this way all the time.
You might also notice its affecting:
- Your memory and the ability to remember something or recall
- Your use and understanding of a language
- Your ability to process and understand information
- Your visual and spatial skills for drawings, recognizing shapes, and navigation
- Ability to calculate and work things out
- Ability to execute anything from planning to problem-solving
You feel like a toddler unable to do things that were so much easier before. It could indicate a health issue that hasn’t been uncovered yet.
Instead of ignoring these symptoms, it’s better to focus and diagnose them.
Possible causes of brain fog with headache
There are many possible causes when someone feels foggy with a mean headache. A person might go through these symptoms separately, but they can be challenging to handle together.
Migraine is mean when someone starts suffering from them. Usually, starting from a bit of a headache, it turns into something much more painful than a typical headache. It’s more throbbing pain or a pulsating sensation.
Before your migraine starts, you will notice the following symptoms:
- Mood changes
- Food cravings
- Neck stiffness
- Increased urination
- Fluid retention
- Frequent yawning
Some people also witness migraine auras which are usually visuals or disturbances such as vision loss, bright spots or flashes, difficulty in speaking, or pins and needles sensation in arms or legs.
The migraine attack differs from person to person, such as:
- Pain in one side of the head or both sides
- A pulsating or throbbing pain
- Sensitive to light, sound, smell, or touch
- Nausea and vomiting
You’ll feel drained, confused, and unable to comprehend anything, which can also be termed brain fog. Almost as if your brain is foggy, which is an aftereffect of getting a migraine.
Acute Confusional Migraine (ACM) is a rare migraine that causes extreme brain fogginess with headaches.
There could be different causes behind getting a migraine involving genetics or environmental factors. Various things could be a trigger for other people.
For treatment, pain-relieving or preventive medications would be prescribed based on your diagnosis and the frequency and severity of headaches. A change of pace in your lifestyle and habits can significantly reduce migraine episodes and relieve ongoing ones.
2. Sleep deprivation
CDC recommends adults get 7 hours of sleep each day to function properly. Sleep deprivation is a serious issue that many people seem to ignore the symptoms and effects until something extreme occurs.
With a lack of sleep, it’s only obvious to witness frequent headaches and a foggy feeling in the head.
You might find yourself unable to concentrate on things or learn new things, as if your mind has turned into a plate of mashed potatoes.
Without enough sleep, your brain cannot rest and retain the new information collected that day. Sleep deprivation leaves your brain exhausted, and you’ll find yourself lacking behind in your day-to-day activities.
It might also affect:
- Immune system
- Cardiovascular system
- Hormone level
As your brain gets fogged up and your mind isn’t well-rested, headaches are bound to happen, indicating that your body needs to sleep.
There could be different causes behind a person’s sleep deprivation, including environmental, work-related, and medical conditions.
Sleep apnea is a medical condition that causes sleep deprivation, leaving you with morning headaches, forgetfulness, or drowsiness (brain fog).
Different treatments exist for someone not getting enough sleep, such as counseling, lifestyle and environmental adjustments, medications, and alternative therapies. Some home care tips and tricks can also help you improve your sleeping habits.
3. Brain tumor
Any growth inside a restricted space such as your skull can create problems. Cancerous or non-cancerous brain tumors can be a potential cause of headaches and fogginess experienced.
While the symptoms vary depending on the location and size of the tumor, there’re some common symptoms experienced by most people.
Headaches are a common symptom of a brain tumor, and you might experience headaches that:
- Are worse in the morning when waking up
- Occur while you’re sleeping
- Are made worse by coughing, sneezing, or exercise
Some brain fogging symptoms might also experience, such as:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty in reading or writing
- Decreased alertness, including drowsiness and loss of consciousness
While headache and fogginess are only one aspect of symptoms, other indications can help you identify if you’ve got a possible brain tumor or if you’re suffering.
- Blurred vision or double vision
- Weakness of a limb or part of the face
- A change in mental functioning
- Changes in the ability to hear, taste, or smell
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Hand tremors
- Loss of balance
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Numbness or tingling on one side of the body
- Changes in mood, personality, emotions, and behavior
- Trouble speaking or understanding what others are saying
A brain tumor diagnosis begins with a physical exam and a look at your medical history.
A detailed neurological exam and an eye exam will evaluate muscle strength, coordination, memory, and ability to do mathematical calculations. Other thorough examinations will be performed too.
The treatment will mostly depend on the type of tumor, location, size, and general health. There might be surgery or just radiation therapy, depending on all these factors.
If you’re experiencing brain fog and headaches, it might be the beginning of a tumor.
Getting an early diagnosis can help prevent your situation from worsening and go back to your healthy self again soon enough.
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that occurs after an impact on your head or after a whiplash-type injury.
Concussions are usually not life-threatening, but if you go through them, the symptoms vary depending on the severity of the damage and the person injured.
But there’s a list of common symptoms witnessed in people who suffered from a concussion:
- Memory problems
- Drowsiness or feeling sluggish
- Double or blurred vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Balance problems
- Slowed reaction to stimuli
We can see how headaches and brain fogginess are present in someone who just suffered a concussion from the above list.
Someone might experience these signs immediately or may even take hours, days, weeks, or months to show signs of it.
If you recently suffered a concussion or suffered it a long time ago, it’s no surprise to see the signs and symptoms now when you didn’t go through them.
Your doctor will diagnose your condition by asking questions and performing a physical examination.
The treatment of a concussion might depend on the severity of the issue and your symptoms. If your concussion is causing a headache, the doctor might prescribe some over-the-counter pain relievers, get plenty of rest, and avoid sports and other strenuous activities.
There could even be some long-term complications involved for someone who suffered from multiple concussions.
Under such circumstances, your doctor might advise you not to continue with sports or strenuous activities.
Everyone experiences stress in their lives time and again, and a bit of stress proves to help them achieve great things as it motivates them.
But stress can be chronic too, which can wreak havoc in your life.
Some can handle stress better than others, and those who have the resources to overcome the issue causing stress don’t worry much.
But, those who suffer from acute or chronic stress go through a lot of symptoms such as giving you headaches, rising blood pressure, upset stomach, and hindering their ability to think and act.
There’s a feeling of fatigue as your brain gets exhausted, and you’re unable to focus on things.
The treatment includes focusing on the underlying issue causing stress in the first place and treating it with medications, lifestyle changes, stress management techniques, and finding a support group.
6. Anxiety and depression
A person suffering from anxiety or depression is prone to impair cognitive function, which affects their brain functioning, attention, and memory.
It could be linked to either the loss of energy and motivation associated with mental health conditions or the brain’s psychological effects that make it difficult to function properly. This can be summed up as brain fogging as the person cannot think correctly.
Anxiety and depression can have different symptoms and effects on other people. But even then, they can cause headaches.
All this worrying about something, in particular, can cause headaches.
Many people with anxiety disorders also experience migraine or chronic tension headaches along with shortness of breath.
These headaches are often described as a feeling like there’s a tight band wrapped around your head.
So, things are interrelated more than you would like them to be. If you’re suffering psychologically in any way, it’s best to get diagnosed and receive proper treatment.
Medications, therapies, and knowing one’s triggers can help you get rid of the brain fog and headaches you’re experiencing.
Some causes of brain fog
The list of reasons behind getting brain fog is extensive. Below is a list of possible causes which only cause brain fog and wouldn’t cause a headache as an additional symptom.
So, if you’re only suffering from brain fog, you might want to explore these causes:
- Hormonal changes can trigger brain fog which can affect memory and cause short-term cognitive impairment. Very common among pregnant women or those going through menopause.
- Diet plays a significant role in brain fog. Vitamin B-12 is an essential vitamin, and a lack of it can affect your brain functioning. Even eating certain foods you’re allergic to can cause a similar effect.
- Certain medications might also be causing brain fog, which is a side effect of a drug.
- Medical conditions associated with inflammation, fatigue, or changes in blood glucose levels can also cause mental fatigue.
The diagnosis and treatment of brain fog basically depend on the underlying issue causing it in the first place.
Sometimes it could just be correcting a nutritional deficiency, switching medications, decreasing caffeine intake, or even improving the quality of your sleep.
Some causes of headaches
There’re different possible causes of a headache or feeling heavy in the head. Some involve brain fog as an additional symptom, and some might not.
Below is a list of causes that might be causing you a headache but not the feeling of brain fog:
- Muscle strain is the feeling of pain in the head and neck muscles, making your head heavy and more challenging to hold up. Anything could have caused this strain, even working in front of a computer for a long time.
- Whiplash is when the head moves backward and then forward suddenly with excessive force.
- Fatigue is caused due to excessive tiredness, which can be caused due to your schedule or medical conditions.
- A heavy head feeling can result from a vestibular disorder that includes the inner ear and brain that control balance and eye movements.
- Sometimes even seasonal allergies can give you a headache because the symptoms often result in pressure and head congestion.
- A sinus infection can cause facial pressure and pain, nasal congestion, and headaches. These symptoms are sometimes also described as heavy-headedness.
The treatment for headaches or heavy-headedness depends on the underlying condition. You’ll be referred to a neurologist depending on your symptoms.
Medications will be prescribed based on what your diagnosis comes out as.
How do I get rid of a headache and brain fog?
Brain fog and headache can be caused due to multiple possible causes, and their treatments would depend on each different issue.
Some tips you can use in your everyday life to get rid of brain fog and avoid headaches in general:
– Spend less time in front of a screen. Blue light is harmful to your eyes. Take a break after every 20 minutes for blinking your eyes and moving around.
– Don’t use electronics before bed. Switch it with a book to read.
– Include some form of exercise in your daily routine for 30 minutes.
– Avoid alcohol, smoking, and drinking coffee in the evening.
– Keep your diet healthy. Eat everything in moderation.
– Going out in nature, like hikes or even walking outside every day, can be good for your mental health, and you’ll get some fresh air.
– Meditate whenever possible and drink lots of water.
Can headaches cause brain fog?
Headaches and brain fog are two different symptoms that can happen simultaneously or separately depending on the underlying issue you’re suffering from. But a headache can also cause brain fog, and it’s pretty standard for people suffering from migraine.
A migraine might start with a headache which then increases in intensity. When it slows down, you’re left with a feeling of confusion, disorientation, unable to comprehend things around you, which is brain fog.
Those with chronic migraine may experience some degree of brain fog all the time. Other underlying issues can trigger a headache first, followed by brain fog.
Can a headache make you feel disoriented?
Acute confusional migraine (ACM), a variant of migraine, causes a person to suffer from headaches and brain fog. Symptoms include confusion, agitation, disorientation, altered mental status, blurred vision, anxiety, and problems with speech and memory.
It primarily affects children and teenagers. But the causes and triggers are still unknown, and an extensive study is still needed on ACM. This is one such migraine where the headache with brain fog is pretty prominent.
An average episode is approximately 5 hours. Immediate care is needed for someone suffering from an ACM attack. After an attack, people don’t even remember much of the event. A case study in 2012 shows that ACM can also be treated using common migraine medications.
Why does brain fog feel like COVID?
Many people have reported the feeling of brain fog after getting COVID-19.
People describe it as the inability to concentrate, think clearly, and have trouble remembering things. The severity of their symptoms ranges from mild to severe enough to make it hard for them to go about their lives.
For people with a history of anxiety or depression, it’s even valid to consider they would face brain fogging. Experts say it’s a temporary symptom.
It should go away by taking proper care, including eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, staying social, getting regular mental and physical exercise, and taking enough rest during the recovery period from COVID.
A feeling of feeling foggy in the head while having a headache feels like the worst combination at a time.
The feeling of your brain being hammered while you’re unable to comprehend what’s going on and your brain refuses to function is how one can describe this feeling.
Different possible causes could be causing both these symptoms to occur simultaneously. The treatment options will differ depending on your situation and what other symptoms show up.
I hope by now you’ve got an idea about the situation you’re in right now and were able to narrow down similar underlying conditions you think you’re suffering from based on the common symptoms.
Still, it’s better to visit a doctor and get a proper diagnosis to prevent the situation from becoming severe and get the appropriate treatment you deserve.