There is currently no “cure” for narcolepsy, but symptoms can be significantly reduced with the right treatment.

There are currently a few different types of treatment available to narcoleptics, including both medications and lifestyle changes. Many find a combination of these methods to be the most beneficial.

Medication*

The medications taken for narcolepsy comprise of three main groups: stimulants, anticataplectic compounds and hypnotic compounds.

Some use a combination of these to treat different symptoms.

It is important to note that medications will work differently for each individual and it is crucial that you work with your doctor to find the right combination of medication for you.

*This medication list is not intended to replace valuable medical advice and guidance by a sleep disorder specialist or/and a neurologist. It is not an all-inclusive list. Main source: med.stanford.edu/psychiatry/narcolepsy/medications

 

Stimulants

  • Dextroamphetamine (amphetamine, Dexedrine, Adderall), methylphenidate (Ritalin), modafinil (Provigil), armodafinil (Nuvigil)
  • Medications used to combat EDS
  • Keep you awake for a few hours at a time
  • Common side effects: dry mouth, teeth grinding, headaches, anxiety, high-blood pressure

 

Anti-cataplectic Compounds

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac), venlafaxine (Effexor), duloxetine (Cymbalta), atomoxetine (Stattera), protriptyline (Vivactil), inipramine (Tofranil), desipramine (Norpramin), clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • Typically “anti-depressant” medications used in narcolepsy patients to help combat cataplexy
  • Common side effects: dry mouth, nausea, weight gain, anxiety or depression, headaches, sexual dysfunction, generally “flat” feeling

 

Hypnotic compounds

  • Sodium oxybate (Xyrem, GHB), hypnotic benzodiazepines (including estazolam, flurazepam, temazepam and triazolam)
  • Xyrem is used to promote deep sleep in narcoleptic patients, with potential to reduce all symptoms including cataplexy
  • Benzodiazepines are used more as a sleep aid than an overall treatment
  • Common side effects: nausea, dizziness, numbness, headaches, “drunken” feeling (before falling asleep), mood issues

 

Lifestyle changes

Most of the lifestyle changes that will help in the treatment of narcolepsy involve having good sleep hygiene. This involves helping the brain distinguish the correct times for “wake” and “sleep”.

Ways of doing this include setting regular bed times, using your bed for sleep only, getting a good amount of sunlight during the day, scheduling naps, and not eating, exercising or using electronic devices for a couple of hours before going to bed.

Other than sleep hygiene, the most important thing that can help with your condition is keeping your body working the best it can. It sounds obvious, but eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise both play a large role in the day-to-day functioning of your body. When your body works well, it has a better chance of sleeping well.