Winter memory loss: Brief exposure to cold weather can actually fog your brain

Woman in the cold weather as it is revealed, it could impact brain health. (Getty Images)
Could the cold weather be impacting our brain health? (Getty Images)

Ever noticed your memory isn't quite as sharp in the winter months? Turns out the cold weather could be to blame.

The UK is currently in the midst of an icy spell, with the Met Office issuing yellow weather warnings for snow and ice across much of northern England, the Midlands and northern Wales.

Aside from struggling to keep our extremities warm, the chilly temperatures can have a surprising impact on our minds with research revealing even a brief exposure to the cold can fog your brain - affecting memory, attention and cognitive speed.

A study, published in the National Library of Medicine, found that cold air can impair cognitive performance even if you're otherwise healthy.

The research, which was based on the analysis of previous studies, found that acute cold exposure induced an impairment of cognitive function in 15 of the 18 studies.

The most affected cognitive domains impacted were attention and processing speed, executive function (the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember, and juggle multiple tasks) and memory.

What's more researchers found that the brain fog continued even after exposure and during passive re-warming.

Men in the cold. (Getty Images)
New research has revealed exposure to the cold could cause memory loss. (Getty Images)

"This groundbreaking research is not just about the physical discomfort of cold," a spokesperson for Tutor House says of the research findings.

"It reveals a crucial link between our environment and cognitive functions. The implications are particularly significant as we approach the coldest months, a time when many might unknowingly experience a dip in mental sharpness due to colder temperatures. The brain's ability to adapt to varying temperatures is a testament to human resilience, but it also underscores the need for proactive measures."

Thankfully, if you're feeling somewhat fuzzy of mind right now, there are some ways to try to prevent cold-weather memory loss as the chilly temperatures continue to bite.

"By staying informed about weather changes, dressing appropriately, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we can safeguard our cognitive abilities against the chill of winter," the spokesperson continues.

"We hope this insight will spark a broader conversation on how we can adapt our daily routines and environments to nurture our cognitive health year-round."

Watch: Emma Heming Willis is urging her fans to talk to their doctors about their 'brain health'

Five ways to prevent memory loss this winter

Layer up

Dress in warm layers to maintain a comfortable body temperature, especially when stepping outside.

Monitor weather forcasts

With warnings issued across many parts of the UK right now it helps to stay informed about the weather to prepare adequately for cold days.

Indoor climate control

Keeping your living and working spaces at a comfortable temperature could help keep your mind focussed.

Stay active

Engaging in regular physical activity can help to boost blood circulation and maintain overall health, which can help your body better regulate temperature.

Findings from The Journal of Physiology show that implementing six short minutes of high-intensity exercise could extend the lifespan of a healthy brain.

Maintain a healthy diet

Consuming a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, can help support overall brain health and resilience against environmental stressors.

Woman in the winter weather. (Getty Images)
There are some simple lifestyle changes that could prevent winter memory loss. (Getty Images)

What else can affect our brain health?

Other than the cold, there are many other factors that can impact our brain health.

"The health of the brain is strongly experience-dependent," Dr Jennifer Newson PhD (Oxon), in-house neuroscience consultant at Children of Earth Skincare previously told Yahoo Life.

"This means that a significant part of our brain health is determined by the environment in which we live and the life experiences we've had. There are therefore lots of factors which influence a person's brain health – from their diet and ultra-processed food consumption, to how regularly they exercise and how well they sleep.

"We also live in an increasingly man-made chemical environment and it's been shown that some harmful chemicals found in commonly used products can cross the blood-brain barrier, where they can potentially disrupt brain functioning and health."

Brain Health: Read more