Menopause and the Brain: What’s Really Going on Up There?

Think you’re losing your mind? Think again! Women’s health expert Cara Bradley explains what mindfulness can do to help “menopause brain.”


This article is independently written and researched by the author, and created in support of a paid partnership between Mindful and Winona.

If you are a woman forty years or older there’s a good chance (60%) that you may have said out loud (more than once), Am I losing my mind? Why can’t I think straight?

Welcome to your beginner’s guide to menopause brain fog, where we shed light on the mental changes that often catch many midlife women by surprise.

We now know that menopause can shake up our brains. Sure, hot flashes and night sweats get all the attention, but there’s a whole lot more happening up there.

Dr. Lisa Mosconi is a neuroscientist and author of the newly launched book, The Menopause Brain: New Science Empowers Women to Navigate the Pivotal Transition with Knowledge and Confidence. Dr. Mosconi is leading the march on research showing the impact menopause has on the brain.

Her research offers an encouraging message: we are not losing our minds, and it’s not all in our heads!

Dr. Mosconi refers to these changes to attention, memory, and cognition  as “menopause brain.”

Also known as menobrain or menopause brain fog, this common experience can be frustrating and disruptive—not to mention how it impacts our confidence.

The Neuroscience Behind Menopause Brain Fog

Characterized by difficulties in focus, memory lapses, mood swings, reduced energy, and diminished productivity, menopause brain fog is intricately linked to fluctuations in estrogen levels. Estrogen, a key hormone responsible for maintaining cognitive sharpness, undergoes significant fluctuations during this phase of life, impacting mental clarity profoundly.

Research offers an encouraging message: we are not losing our minds, and it’s not all in our heads!

Estrogen is also the brain’s cheerleader, It facilitates communication between brain cells, boosts memory, attention, and mood, and ensures healthy blood flow for cognitive well-being. However, during perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause, it takes a rollercoaster ride before bottoming out, affecting brain structure and making it challenging to remember, speak coherently, and avoid feeling scatterbrained.

Progesterone, responsible for promoting relaxation and sleep, also nosedives during menopause, disrupting sleep and leaving us tired and unfocused. This hormonal duo creates a perfect storm of menopause brain fog, challenging women to navigate the complexities of this cognitive transition.

Your Brain On Menopause

Here are the five major signs of menopause brain fog. And if you recognize your own experience here, you’re not alone. Keep reading for tips on how to face this change with awareness and self-compassion. 

1. Lack of Focus: Zoning out? You guessed it, estrogen may be to blame! It’s essential for keeping our neural connections in check, helping our brain cells chat, and supporting cognitive superpowers like attention and focus. It’s hard to stay on track and concentrate on tasks. We get distracted easily, and our efficiency suffers.

2. Memory Loss and Forgetfulness: Car keys? What car keys? Declining estrogen messes with your memory consolidation, leaving us searching for lost things. Menopause can also cause memory lapses, making us forget stuff.

3. Drop In Energy Levels: Oh, the fatigue! Hormonal swings leave us feeling drained, zapping our motivation and energy.

4. Irritability: You’re happy one minute and then suddenly upset the next. The smallest things can set you off, and you’re easily annoyed.

5. Tanked Productivity:  Brain fog + lack of focus + low energy = not the best recipe for productivity. Handling tasks can become a real struggle.

Managing Menopause Brain Fog With Mindfulness

But wait, it’s not all doom and gloom! There are ways to regulate menopause brain fog. Let’s look at a few that have worked for many women.

1. Level Up Your Lifestyle Habits: The big three matter now more than ever. Regular exercise, healthy food, and quality sleep are the brain’s best friends.

2. Paying Attention to Your Gut Health: Emerging evidence suggests a strong connection between gut health and brain function. Taking probiotics and prebiotics and increasing fiber may improve brain fog.

3. Getting Higher Quality Sleep: Hormonal shifts can and most likely will disrupt sleep patterns. Prioritize quality sleep with a calming bedtime routine like turning down lights, doing some restorative yoga, making your bedroom cold and dark, and ditching the phone for a real book. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

Also, a big part of getting better sleep is respecting our primal circadian rhythms and getting exposure to more natural light. Seeing bright light in the morning will help you fall asleep easier at night, along with getting outside during the day, and even watching the sun go down if you can. These all signal to your brain that it’s okay to enter into more natural cycles of wakefulness and sleep.

4. Stress Management: Chronic stress can exacerbate brain fog. Menopause alone can be a stressful journey. Practice relaxation techniques like spending more time in nature, deep breathing, or mindfulness to reduce stress and enhance overall well-being. Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered.

5. Hormone Therapy: For some, menopause hormone therapy might help. It’s important to talk to a pro before going that route.

6. Brain Workouts: Engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as puzzles, reading, or learning new skills, can help keep your brain active and may improve cognitive function.

7. Supplements: While there’s no substitute for clean eating, supplements can support your efforts. There are a few recommended go-tos, including Omega-3, Magnesium, and Vitamin D. Some studies suggest that these might have cognitive benefits. Consult a healthcare professional to determine if these and other supplements are right for you.

Remember, it’s not all in your head! And you’re not alone in this foggy journey. Understanding menopause brain and prioritizing our self-care can make a big difference.