Narcolepsy Treatment

Although there is no cure, narcolepsy treatment options are available to help reduce the various symptoms.

Treatment for narcolepsy is individualized depending on the severity of the symptoms, and it may take weeks or months for an optimal regimen to be worked out. Complete control of sleepiness and cataplexy is rarely possible.

Treatment is primarily by medication for narcolepsy, but lifestyle changes are also important. The main treatment of excessive daytime sleepiness in narcolepsy is with a group of drugs called central nervous system stimulants. For cataplexy and other REM-sleep symptoms, antidepressant medications and other drugs that suppress REM sleep are prescribed. Caffeine and over-the-counter drugs have not been shown to be effective and are not a recommended narcolepsy drug treatment plan.

In addition to drug therapy, an important part of treatment is scheduling short naps (10 to 15 minutes) two to three times per day to help control excessive daytime sleepiness and help the person stay as alert as possible. Daytime naps are not a replacement for nighttime sleep.

Ongoing communication among the physician, the person with narcolepsy, and family members about the response to treatment is necessary to achieve and maintain the best control.

Narcolepsy Medication

Some of the most common Narcolepsy Drugs are:

  • Methamphetamine (Desoxyn)
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin)
  • Modafinil
  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)
  • Pemoline (Cylert)

Not all of these are over the counter medications, and require a prescription.

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Swanson, Jennifer. Sleep Disorders Sourcebook. Detroit, Michigan: Omnigraphics, Inc., 1999.