Cognitive Fatigue is a symptom that many brain injury survivors experience. It can also be referred to as Neuro Fatigue.
But what exactly is Cognitive Fatigue? And how does it affect survivors?
Cognitive Fatigue, or Neuro Fatigue, is when your brain becomes so exhausted that you cannot function anymore.
We need to understand that brain tired is different than sleep tired!
• This is different than physical fatigue because it can’t simply be fixed through sleeping.
We need to acknowledge that it can't be seen on the outside.
• A survivor can “look fine” on the outside and not even appear tired, but on the inside, their brain can be EXHAUSTED!
We need to recognize that this is experienced by many survivors on a daily basis.
• It can also be described as having a shorter “battery” - there is only so much an injured brain can take, and it’s usually a shorter window than a non-injured person.
FOR EXAMPLE: Someone with a brain injury could find themselves cognitively fatigued just 2-3 hours after waking up… but they are not ready to go to bed!
• “Normal” daily tasks also take a LOT more out of a person with cognitive fatigue.
FOR EXAMPLE: Doing the dishes, taking a shower, or folding laundry could cause a brain injured person to use up their brain energy, and they won’t be able to move onto another task.
For many years after my brain injury, I had this symptom. However, it wasn't until I was able to put words to what I was feeling that I was finally able to recognize what was happening with my brain. I would just continually find myself over-exhausted and unable to do anything.
Once I realized this was the symptom known as Cognitive Fatigue, it helped me to understand what was happening when I was beginning to get too overwhelmed.
I also learned to not be so hard on myself, and realize that this is a part of my journey. (Read more about this in my blog post "Fatigue Does Not Make You a Failure"!)
🧠Some ways I feel cognitive fatigue:
-being unable to focus / concentrate
-increased light or noise sensitivity
-trouble regulating emotions
Do you (or does your loved one) experience cognitive fatigue?
I highly recommend this episode on Fatigue Management from Hope Survives® | Brain Injury Podcast. Many of the strategies shared are preventative, and can help you to learn to manage your energy better so that you don't get so burnt out.
Most of all, know you’re not alone! Know there are resources and help available.