Sharpen up your mom brain

Aug 7, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. ET

Just when you weren’t expecting it, the mom brain has taken over big time. Suddenly, you lose your train of thought mid sentence and often forget the simplest things that should never be forgotten.

What can you do to sharpen your mom brain?

"But Mommy, you said... "

After sleepless nights, managing the schedules of not just you but your whole family and everything else you do, those words can cut deep. Did you say something you forgot? How do you keep forgetting these things? Memory expert Cynthia Green, Ph.D., author of 30 Days to Total Brain Health, sheds some light on this stressful problem.

Why do moms seem to have memory problems?

Has this ever happened to you: you rush to a room in your house and get there only to realize you can't remember why you needed to go there — or what you wanted so badly just moments before. Or you open the fridge for a reason that slips away almost instantly as the cold rush of air hits your face. These moments seem to come up more and more often as a mom, don't they?

So, what's going on in our brains? Are we really losing our minds? No, says Green, and don't worry, it's probably not a permanent thing either. "I think that it’s probably due to a number of factors. I think there is certainly a physical component due to the hormonal changes that we undergo. The impact of that can vary from person to person," says Green.

As a mom, your whole reality has changed. As Green points out, suddenly you aren't just responsible for you but for another person or people too. "When you have multiple kids — each time you add a child, you are adding the responsibility to manage these things for another person," says Green.

The sleep factor

All moms know that having kids can mean big sleep changes. And that loss of sleep can impact our memory in a big way. "We know that sleep impacts our ability to stay focused and to acquire that information," says Green.

If you feel like you can't get enough sleep at night, it's key to make up the shut-eye somewhere in your day. "Try to look for ways that you can take a catnap even if you can’t go to sleep while your baby is napping," says Green. It will help you with attention and memory issues.

Solutions to improve your brain power

While you can't suddenly get back to your old self since your kids won't just start sleeping more (or even stop having their own schedule), you can do a few easy things to help your brain along. "Pay attention to lifestyle factors and try to control what you can. There is a lot that doesn’t feel like we can control," says Green. Here are Green's recommendations:

  • Sleep more - Whether it's by naps or an earlier bedtime, sleeping more will make your memory rebound.
  • Eat well - A healthy diet is key to a healthy body and brain. Make sure your diet is balanced with lots of fruits and veggies.
  • Exercise more - Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to improve memory performance.
  • Cut back on caffeine - Too much caffeine can impact memory negatively too.

"It’s very helpful to be aware that if you are feeling like your memory is more taxed, then it’s probably true. But it’s more because of these lifestyle changes than because of physiological problems," she adds.

More on motherhood

Fact or fiction? The mommy brain
Daddy brain: Does fatherhood change Dad's brain too?
Victoria Beckham loses her head — and her kid too