Modafinil, a psychostimulant medication, is prescribed for the treatment of narcolepsy, a condition characterized by abnormal sleepiness during waking hours and daytime sleep attacks. Medical professionals also prescribe the drug to treat obstructive sleep apnea, another sleep disorder. Natural alternatives, including both nutrients and herbal remedies, are available. However, consult a medical professional before beginning any regimen of self-treatment.
Although modafinil is currently the prescription medication of choice for the treatment of narcolepsy, there is no cure for this sleep disorder. Phyllis A. Balch, author of “Prescription for Nutritional Healing,” says that it’s important that patients with the disorder get the nutrients they need to minimize the symptoms of narcolepsy. She recommends a bedtime dose of 2,000 mg of calcium, 400 mg of magnesium three times a day–morning, afternoon and at bedtime–and 300 mg of choline once daily. The calcium and magnesium help to ensure the body produces all the energy it needs and also protects the nervous system, while the choline acts as a neurotransmitter and is vital to optimal brain function. Other nutrients helpful in fighting the effects of narcolepsy include coenzyme Q10; L-glutamine; L-tyrosine; octacosanol; nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide; omega-3 fatty acids; and vitamins B-complex, C, D and E. Consult with your doctor to see if a program of nutritional supplementation makes sense for you.
In and of itself, caffeine does not offer a cure for narcolepsy, but it can be incorporated into a program of treatment that helps to reduce the disorder’s worrisome symptoms. In “Narcolepsy: A Clinical Guide,” authors Meeta Goswami, S.R. Pandi-Perumal and Michael J. Thorpy point out that caffeine combats fatigue and postpones the need for sleep. However, care must be taken to guard against excessive caffeine consumption, because that can cause anxiety, tremors, rapid breathing and insomnia. Talk to your doctor to determine what level of caffeine consumption makes sense for you.
Used for millennia by Asian herbalists, gotu kola is a potent herbal stimulant of the central nervous system. As such, it can play a helpful role in combating the symptoms of drowsiness and mental fuzziness that are characteristic of narcolepsy. Robert C. Atkins, author of “Dr. Atkins’ Vita-Nutrient Solution,” pointed out that the herb energizes the brain. According to Atkins, scientists have speculated that gotu kola accomplishes this goal by prompting the body to produce choline, which plays a key role in proper brain function. Don’t take gotu kola or any other alternative remedy until you consult a medical professional.
Country mallow, known scientifically as Sida cordifolia, contains a generous amount of ephedrine, a potent stimulant compound, which can be useful in reducing the daytime sleepiness that is a symptom of narcolepsy. Botanist James A. Duke, author of “The Green Pharmacy,” writes that the seeds of country mallow are the plant’s richest source of ephedrine. To combat the effects of narcolepsy, brew a strong tea using 5 tsp. of the herb for each cup of boiling water. Check with your doctor before using this or any other herbal remedy.
- MedlinePlus: Modafinil
- “Prescription for Nutritional Healing”; Phyllis A. Balch; 2006.
- “Narcolepsy: A Clinical Guide”; Meeta Goswami, S.R. Pandi-Perumal and Michael J. Thorpy; 2009.
- “Dr. Atkins’ Vita-Nutrient Solution”; Robert C. Atkins; 1998.
- “The Green Pharmacy: New Discoveries in Herbal Remedies for Common Diseases and Conditions from the World's Foremost Authority on Healing Herbs”; James A. Duke; 1997.