Everyone feels mentally spacey occasionally. If you’re looking for ways to improve your concentration, getting better sleep, staying hydrated, and making time for daily exercise may be all it takes.

Your ability to concentrate and focus without distraction is an important higher-level thought function that helps you with everything from task completion to learning a new skill.

The ability to concentrate can vary between people, and how well you concentrate is often influenced by different variables in your day such as sleep quality, your emotional state, and how many interruptions you experience.

If you’re regularly finding it difficult to focus in on details and orient yourself toward a goal, learning new ways to improve your concentration may make a difference.

Lack of sleep can negatively impact your cognitive performance across a variety of areas, including concentration. Among many other adverse effects, it:

  • promotes inflammation
  • increases oxidative stress
  • causes imbalances in chemical messengers in your brain

Improving your concentration during the day can start with ensuring you get the best sleep possible at night. You can do this through beneficial sleep habits called “sleep hygiene.”

Sleep hygiene tips include:

  • keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet
  • avoiding electronic use before bed
  • keeping evening meals light and not eating too close to sleep time
  • maintaining a consistent waking and sleeping schedule

Dehydration, when you don’t take in enough fluids to support your body’s optimal function, impacts more than just your physical health. In fact, according to a life span perspective study from 2017, the symptoms of mild dehydration typically present cognitively first.

If you’re feeling unable to focus, rehydrating can be a good first-line option for a quick turn-around.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the average adult woman should consume 11.5 cups of fluid a day, and the average adult man should consume 15.5 cups.

Because you typically get around 20% of your fluid from food, this drops the amount of fluid you have to take in through beverages to about 9 cups for women and 13 cups for men.

Many other factors influence your hydration level, however. If you’re sweating or losing fluid due to a medical condition, your fluid intake needs to increase.

Current activity recommendations for healthy adults suggest getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, with 2 or more days of muscle-strengthening exercises.

While that might sound like a lot, especially with busy work and family schedules, regular exercise can improve your concentration and reduce your long-term risk for cognitive decline as you age.

Mindfulness is a state of awareness where you focus on the moment, letting thoughts pass without judgment or rumination.

Mindfulness trains your brain to be in the “now,” a key component of concentration. In a study from 2018, researchers found participants engaging in mindfulness were able to transition to demanding attention tasks faster than those not engaged in mindfulness.

You can start to practice mindfulness on your own by focusing on your breath. Keep your attention on your inhale and exhale. Any time you feel caught up in a thought, return to focus on your breath.

Meditation can be based in mindfulness, but other forms of meditation can also help improve your concentration. A 2019 study found general practices of brief, daily meditation were enough to improve attention and memory after 8 weeks.

Types of meditation you can try include:

Listening to music might seem like it could be distracting, but if it’s music you enjoy in the background (not loud enough to demand your attention), it may actually help with concentration.

A study from 2020 found enjoyable background music improved participants’ ability to concentrate on low-demand tasks requiring sustained attention.

Need to improve your concentration as soon as possible? Chewing gum might help.

According to older research from 2015, chewing gum may boost your level of alertness. In the study, chewing gum during the day was linked with higher productivity at work and fewer cognitive challenges.

It’s true that concentration is typically an unbroken focus of attention, but sometimes, taking a break can help you come back with renewed purpose. When your brain gets to take a rest from cognitive demands, it can often focus more efficiently when it comes back to the task.

A systematic review and meta-analysis from 2022 found micro-breaks, breaks lasting a few seconds to a couple of minutes, can improve mental well-being. The longer the break, the more cognitive benefits were seen for routine, low-demand tasks.

Want a less abstract way to improve your concentration? Pick up or download a brain training game. Games are an enjoyable way to keep your cognitive functions sharp and to improve on the skills you already have.

What leads to a lack of concentration?

Lack of concentration can be a typical experience, but it can also be a symptom of underlying medical conditions.

Everyday circumstances that can cause poor concentration include:

  • dehydration
  • poor sleep
  • stress
  • caffeine or stimulant withdrawal
  • working in a highly active space
  • boredom
  • medication use

Possible underlying conditions that can feature poor concentration include:

If you’re experiencing poor concentration for more than a few days, your doctor can help rule out underlying conditions.

Was this helpful?

It’s natural to go through periods of time where you can’t concentrate. Sleeping poorly, being under stress, and not paying attention to factors like hydration are everyday influences that can make it difficult to stay on task.

Keeping up with healthy lifestyle habits, incorporating mindfulness and meditation, and having a few in-the-moment tricks up your sleeve may help.

If poor concentration is persistent no matter what you do, speaking with your doctor can rule out underlying medical conditions.