Is it harmful to concentrate too much?

This is how it works with concentration

Whether in the home office or in the office: Everyone knows phases in which thoughts wander and concentrated work is hardly possible. Fortunately, there are seldom undetected illnesses behind nervousness and a lack of concentration. Much more often, the problem is homemade: the causes range from external distraction to lack of water to sleep deficit. Medicines can also gnaw at the concentration as a side effect. Read about what causes a lack of concentration and how you can best counteract external distractions and internal disruptive factors.

Missing structures

Desk workers in the home office in particular can tell a thing or two about it: Instead of single-mindedly going to work, the time is wasted on non-work activities such as checking the weather forecast, reading superfluous e-mails or surfing the Internet. In the office, too, distractions often make it difficult to approach the workday in a dynamic and planned manner. Anyone who regularly struggles with concentration problems should therefore first take a close look at their own work structures and work environment. Often a lot can be redesigned here to reduce distractions and promote concentration. The following tips will help:

  • Set up a fixed work area with as few distractions as possible.
  • Set working hours and breaks and stick to them.
  • Wear comfortable clothes, but not a baggy look.
  • Family and friends must respect your work hours. Avoid spontaneous interruptions or visits.
  • Deactivate the automatic notifications for incoming mail or messages on your mobile phone and PC. Acoustic and optical signals disrupt concentration considerably.
  • Set fixed times when you check your mailbox.
  • Avoid high room temperatures, ventilate regularly.
  • At the end of the working day, tidy up your workplace and determine what you want to start with the next day.
  • Avoid too much coffee and cola, these drinks make you awake, but also nervous. Do not drink alcohol while working and give up smoking.
  • Avoid continuous showering with music. If the brain is exposed to too many stimuli, concentration suffers.

Is it because of the lack of sleep?

In addition to the various external distractions, all kinds of internal factors can negatively affect the ability to concentrate. Above all, this includes a lack of sleep. Those who do not get enough sleep are tired and therefore have trouble concentrating during the day. Good sleep hygiene with regular sleep times, bedtime rituals and avoiding lavish meals, alcohol and caffeine in the evening ensure better sleep (more on this in our guide "Good tips for a good night's sleep").

In addition, over-the-counter sleeping pills from the pharmacy can help, such as diphenhydramine (e.g. Betadorm®-D or Vivinox® Sleep sleep tablets) or doxylamine (for example SchlafTabs-ratiopharm® or valocordin®-Doxylamine). So that there are no concentration difficulties due to a hangover in the morning, the active ingredients must be swallowed at least 8 hours before you plan to get up again. Anyone who has sleep problems for more than 4 weeks should definitely consult a doctor. If these benzodiazepines are prescribed, the respective duration of action must also be taken into account when taking in order to be fresh and lively the next morning.

Note: Take benzodiazepines "right on the edge of the bed". These sleeping pills work very quickly and have a muscle-relaxing effect that can lead to falls. Antihistamines take longer to work. They should therefore be taken about 1 hour before going to bed.

Water is the be-all and end-all

Those who are well structured, get enough sleep and still have problems with the ability to concentrate may not drink enough fluids during the day. The brain in particular suffers from a lack of water: For the same performance, dried out brain cells have to work harder than well-watered ones - which makes you tired and worsens the ability to concentrate. It is therefore important to permanently supply the brain with sufficient fluids. Regular drinking is better than waiting to be thirsty. For every 10 kilograms of body weight, around 300 ml of fluid is recommended, for a 70-kilogram person this is around 2 liters of fluid per day. Water, tea or highly diluted juices are particularly beneficial for fluid intake.

A lack of vitamins and minerals is also detrimental to the ability to concentrate. A balanced, healthy diet is therefore also essential for the brain. Iron, magnesium and vitamin B12 in particular are important for concentration and should be taken with food supplements if there is a deficiency.

Tip: Not only a lack of water, but also a lack of calories can gnaw at the concentration. Put a few nuts (e.g. trail mix) or a small energy bar nearby to bridge any hunger you may have until your next meal. This also avoids the annoying - distracting - walk to the refrigerator.

Breaks, oils, power naps

Real concentration killers are also missing breaks. After four to five hours of sedentary activity at the latest, it is time to move: whether housework, jogging, a walk with the dog or light gymnastics: when the body gets going, the brain recovers too. Some people benefit from the so-called power nap, a 15 to 20-minute nap. In order not to oversleep the afternoon, you should set an alarm clock to be on the safe side.

There are also aids from nature to combat tiredness and poor concentration. Essential oils such as lavender, bergamot and rosemary are said to have an encouraging effect in fragrance lamps or as incense sticks. As cosmetic oils, they can also be diluted and applied to the temples. Extracts from ginseng (for example red ginseng extract capsules or Ginseng IL HWA hard capsules) and gingko (for example tebonin® intens 120 mg or Doppelherz Ginkgo 240 mg system) are traditionally recommended for use against concentration disorders and mild exhaustion. Ask your pharmacy for advice on which preparation is especially suitable for you.

Tip: Ear massages perk you up: rub your auricles vigorously with your fingertips for one minute and stroke the auricles towards the earlobes. The resulting improved blood circulation should also promote the ability to concentrate.

A question of glasses ...

It is also stressful for the brain when the glasses are no longer correct or an ametropia is undetected and therefore not corrected at all. Anyone wearing glasses or contact lenses who quickly gets tired and unable to concentrate while working at a desk should have their eyesight checked. At an advanced age, presbyopia often develops even in people with normal vision, which worsens nearby vision and thus makes it difficult to concentrate when working at the desk and monitor. Reading glasses can help here. As presbyopia progresses in attacks, regular adjustment of glasses or contact lenses is necessary.

Tip: Varifocal glasses that cover 3 areas are particularly practical glasses for working on a PC and desk: the immediate reading area, the distance to the screen and an additional area at a distance of around 2 to 3 meters.

Side effect: poor concentration

When looking for the cause of concentration disorders, it is also helpful to take a look at prescribed medication. Because a whole range of active ingredients damage the ability to concentrate: Some dampen the brain, others lead to nervousness, irritability or inner restlessness. So if you take medication regularly and suffer from concentration disorders, you should discuss with your doctor whether it might not be due to one of the prescribed active ingredients. The preparation can possibly be exchanged for another one. Sometimes it helps to postpone the time of intake, if possible, for example, take a steaming preparation in the evening and an activating preparation in the morning.

For example, active ingredients that tend to make you tired and lead to drowsiness and depression

  • Antiallergic drugs such as azelastine (for example Allergodil®) or desloratadine (for example Aerius®)
  • Antidepressants like mirtazapine, for example Remergil®
  • Blood pressure medicines such as losartan (for example Lorzaar®) or enalapril (for example Xanef®)
  • Smoking cessation drugs such as varenicline (for example Champix®).

Active ingredients that can lead to nervousness, restlessness and irritability:

  • Antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin (for example Ciprobay®)
  • Antidepressants such as citalopram (for example Citalon®)
  • Blood pressure medicines such as ramipril (for example Delix®)
  • Cortisone such as beclometasone (for example Beclomet Easyhaler®)
  • Thyroid hormones such as levothyroxine (for example Euthyrox®).

Isn't there a disease behind it?

Many diseases also affect the brain and its ability to concentrate. Thyroid malfunctions are particularly typical and often unrecognized. Both underactive and overactive can disturb concentration. In the case of overactive hormones, restlessness, nervousness and hyperactivity spark in between, and a lack of thyroid hormones make thinking difficult due to tiredness and poor concentration. The suspicion of a thyroid malfunction is corroborated by further complaints (diarrhea, sweating, palpitations and sensitivity to heat in the case of overactive, constipation, sensitivity to cold, depression in the case of underactive) and must be clarified urgently by a doctor.

Note: Restless legs also cause sleep disorders and can lead to problems with concentration during the day. Do not take complaints such as tingling at night and feeling hot in your legs lightly, but let your doctor examine you thoroughly.

ADHD torments adults too

A classic concentration disorder is the attention-hyperactivity disorder ADHD, which is typical of childhood. But ADHD also affects 2 to 3 in 100 adults. Many of them carry the diagnosis with them since childhood, in some the disease is undetected. In contrast to ADHD children, adults are more likely to have restlessness and agility than increased physical activity. Their ability to concentrate is often better than in ADHD in children, but in most cases significantly less than in healthy adults. Diagnosis and therapy of ADHD in adulthood belong in the hands of a specialist; treatment consists of drugs such as methylphenidate (for example, Ritalin®Adult) and psychoeducation, i.e. a thorough explanation of the illness and the teaching of strategies for coping with it.

There are also numerous other diseases that trigger increased fatigue and thus affect the ability to concentrate. These include, for example, heart failure, cancer, depression, and kidney and liver diseases. Infections, too, sometimes weaken the body so much that the person affected is limp and tired and simply cannot concentrate. With professional therapy of the underlying disease, tiredness and concentration disorders often improve, and the above-mentioned non-medical measures also have a supportive effect.

Source: Claudia Bruhn, DAZ 2020, No. 21, p. 48


Dr. med. Sonja Kempinski | last changed on at 09:01