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Cognitive Fatigue

Cognitive Fatigue2015-04-09T09:16:07+00:00

The Forums Forums What is it? The Neurology Cognitive Fatigue

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    Post count: 430

    Does anyone out there know what this is and how often we should be taking breaks to avoid it? Do normals get it? If so, how do they “recharge” or avoid it?


    Rick Green – Founder of TotallyADD
    Post count: 473

    I think this is very common for us ADDers.  We’re just doing a new video on anger and one of the strategies to avoid sudden explosions is to make sure you snack through the day.  Healthy snacks.  Several of the experts say the same thing: Protein.

    The other weird thing is that this morning Dr. Margaret Weiss, who is in ADD & Loving It?! and many of our other videos, was mentioning Sluggish Cognitive Tempo.  And she and several others are mentioning the topic of training our executive function. Which is funny, because the other video we are working on is about ADHD Coaches and how they work. And a number of the coaches and doctors are talking about being able to train your brain, developing your Executive Functions.  In the Anger video Dr. Ned Hallowell (Driven to Distraction) talks about building the muscle.  And he and others talk about Mindful Meditation.  Putting in the pause.

    But that’s different from Cognitive Fatigue.

    Oh, just remembered, the other biggies are getting enough sleep (rather than drink caffeine so you don’t ‘feel’ how tired you are, actually take a power nap) and getting exercise.  Here at TotallyADD we often find a brisk, 15 minute walk does wonders.  I always get up and move around a bit when I’m switching from one task to another.  Clears the brain.


    Post count: 430

    Hi Rick!

    Great reply. Thank you. Since writing my question, I found a definition for Cognitive Fatigue that pretty well describes it. Cognitive fatigue is a failure to maintain and optimize performance over acute but sustained cognitive effort resulting in performance that is lower and more variable than the individual’s optimal ability.

    In terms us non doctors can understand: That brain drain that happens when we are working too hard on one thing.

    I am the type that hyper focuses. I call it “Going down the rabbit hole”. When I am working in that state, the outside world ceases to exist. I can disappear for hours (days) and take no break. I know. Very unhealthy. To stop some of it from happening, I have an office in my house that is part of the family room, not sequestered in an unused room, behind a closed door.

    My coach was talking to me about taking more breaks, and setting a timer so I take them, A few nuts for snacks, and exercise and sleep as a way to minimize cognitive fatigue. The timer is bothers, so I don’t use it.  Sleep? Yea. Right. Sleep is like unicorns. I hope I see some, but I doubt I ever will.

    To me, taking breaks is counter-intuitive. Breaks are too much like interruptions, which annoy the heck out of me. Besides, how can I be more efficient, when I am chopping up my work time with breaks? What happens if I get distracted and don’t come back from a break? How do I remember where I left off, so I can start up again, when I do come back?

    How do normals deal with this?



    Post count: 2

    Does you brain feel like the staticky tv channel when you get done hyper focusing too? That’s what mine does, and I am worthless for the next few hours to the next day. Though I was actually wondering if it might just mean I need stimulation when I’m in that state. Lots of it. Not too long ago I was having a super fatigued day and tried about everything to ease the numbness. When I finally started to feel it easing off, I became aware and started questioning it… I had the TV on, my laptop in my lap, I can’t remember what was playing on which, but I know I had music going from one of them, and at that moment I had my phone in front of my face and was scrolling through pictures on imgur. It was like I needed to bombard myself with stimulation to calm myself down.

    I usually get lost in movies and books. All the stimulation is purposeful and take you on a journey. You see and hear what you are intended to and are just along for the ride.


    Post count: 430

    While I am down the rabbit hole, my brain feels alive. Thoughts come faster. I am able to sift through data faster and winnow out superfluous data far easier. I can access and organize steps to solve the problem.

    After I am done, I am drained. I usually sleep, eat some, sleep some more. It is almost like recovering from a cold.


    Post count: 906

    Do normals get cognitive fatigue? Yes, everyone does. In fact, “normals” probably get it more than someone like you shutterbug because they don’t have that ability to hyperfocus for hours or days at a time.

    Myself, I get it after reading 2 or 3 comments on here, or one really long one. I literally fall asleep reading all the time. But then as soon as I stop reading and get up to go do something else, I feel fine. This happens all the time when I go to get ready for bed. I’ll be reading a book, or playing a game, or whatever, and I can’t keep my eyes open so I decide to go to bed. But by the time I have changed into my pjs, brushed my teeth (maybe, if I remember) and put away the leftovers from dinner that I forgot to put away earlier, I’m wide awake again.

    Breaks work, as long as they are breaks. My problem is I never actually take a break. I can’t just sit down and rest or eat without reading a book or doing a crossword or watching TV or something. Then I just feel more tired and I don’t want to go back to whatever I was doing. Exercise, like a brisk walk, is okay because it doesn’t involve thinking, or at least uses a different part of the brain.

    I know what you mean by not wanting to be interrupted by breaks and risk getting distracted and not getting back to work.  Happens to me every day. I would suggest just making sure you pause once in awhile and stand up and stretch, or jump up and down a few times, any kind of movement. (I will sometimes just shake my head and slap/rub my cheeks a few times, to help me “wake up”.) Or you could take a few seconds to close your eyes and breathe deeply and let your brain rest. Another one of my favourite techniques is rebooting, commonly referred to as “spacing out” by the “normal people”. Just sipping a cup of hot tea while staring off into space for a couple of minutes can do wonders. You might actually find it makes you more productive.

    A blast of cold air can help too. Sometimes the smell or taste of citrus or mint is good…

    And I am having trouble keeping my eyes open right now. Time to go nite nite.




    Post count: 17

    I used the term “cognitive fatigue” in a very private, behind-the-scenes note on an agricultural forum where I am a moderator, administrator, and more.

    Knute …
    Can you elaborate on the ” differences between “Cognitive Fatigue” between normal people and us crazies.”?

    My answer to my friends was:

    It basically boils down to how we relax. Some relaxation is healthy. Some is not. Here is one very simple and easy-to-understand definition of Cognitive Fatigue:

    [quote]Cognitive fatigue is conceptualized as an executive failure to maintain and optimize performance over acute but sustained cognitive effort resulting in performance that is lower and more variable than the individual’s optimal ability.[/quote]

    Well, I don’t really know what that means. I’m probably in cognitive fatigue from reading it.

    However, in terms I can understand and explain, it means that different people need to relax differently. Not all replenish their brains and bodies the same way. Some of us over do it — big time.

    Even today, I can go for many many hours, without taking any kind of a break if I’m doing something my brain is really intensely engaged in. It can be anything from writing software, designing a new electronic circuit, to fishing or gardening. It is known as “super focusing”. To a certain extent, nearly everyone can relax in this way, but it is not very good for those of us with certain brain disorders who do it for very extended periods.

    In my younger days I could go for very long periods, sometimes days, without sleep, food, or a break. I was nearly 22 years old, 5′-10″ and 118 lbs., when I got drafted into the Navy in 1969. I was strong, but just skin and bones.

    As I’ve gotten older, my long-duration stints have been cut down, but it has become something I now have to be very conscious of. My body isn’t what it was 40-50 years ago.

    When I went through SERE training  back in 1970 at Whidbey Island, WA, I was able to go for a week with very little sleep, minimal food, and then through about a day of constant harassment in less-than-comfortable surroundings. I was fortunate that my crazy brain let me be comfortable by super focusing, and knowing (in my mind) that these dudes couldn’t legally or physically harm me. They could literally rattle my cage, they could holler offensive propaganda … But, my crazy brain was relaxed.

    For some of us, we can function for very long periods without breaks, food, or sleep if we are stimulated by what we are doing. Thus, that is the reason for stimulant drugs like Adderall and Ritalin. One of the things they do is keep us from going into these long-term stimulated states-of-mind that affect us in physical and social ways.

    By not taking breaks, our bodies and brains eventually do begin to diminish and rot. We need to replenish with sleep and food.

    I’m currently off my stimulant drugs because I was so uncomfortable when not doing 17 things at once. Over the winter they turned me into a true couch potato to again recover from another bought of “cognitive fatigue.”

    So, now that I’m off the stimulants, I’ve taken the couch potatoes and planted them in the garden, along with a bunch more cold-hardy plants.



    Post count: 23

    I’m a super focuser too, and I can honestly say that I get the most cognitively fatigued when I’m super focusing on super unnecessary things.

    The cognitive fatigue I get from working really hard on projects seems to come and go at normal times. But the cognitive fatigue I get from just thinking too hard about stuff that doesn’t need to be thought about, is there more often than I would like!

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