Narcolepsy Treatment

Important: Medications affect people differently. This page offers general information only about treatment options. Talk with your doctor about what is right for you. Read Words of Caution.

Is there is Cure for Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy has no cure currently. However, medicines, lifestyle changes, and other treatment options can help relieve many of the symptoms. Treatment for narcolepsy is based on the type and severity of your symptoms.

Not all medicines and lifestyle changes work for everyone. It may take weeks to months for you and your doctor to find the best treatment plan for you. Remain patient and determined to find a regimen that works well.

Medications to relieve Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS):

  • Sodium Oxybate (XYREM®), also FDA-approved for reducing cataplexy
  • Wakefulness Promoting Medications including Modafinil (Provigil®) and Armodafinil (Nuvigil®)
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants such as Methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Ritalin SR®, Methylin®, Methylin ER®), Mixed Amphetamine Salts (Adderall IR®, Adderall XR®), Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®, Dexedrine SR®), and Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse®)

Medications to Reduce Cataplexy (partial of full muscle weakness) and other REM Sleep Disturbances:

  • Sodium Oxybate (XYREM®), also FDA-approved for reducing EDS
  • Antidepressants that repress REM Sleep, such as:
  • Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors like Venlafaxine (EffexorSR®)
  • Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors like Atomoxetine (Strattera®)
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors like Fluoxetine (Prozac®) and Sertraline (Zoloft®)
  • Older Tricyclic Antidepressants like Protriptyline (Triptil® and Vivactil®), Imipramine (Janimine® and Tofranil®), Desipramine (Norpramine® and Pertofran®), and Clomipramine (Anafranil®)

Regularly Scheduled Naps:  

Taking short naps may help relieve excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). Some people with narcolepsy find short naps an intergral part of treatment. Planning regular naps into one’s schedule may be extremely helpful.

Lifestyle changes:  may help relieve some narcolepsy symptoms

  • Follow a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Do something relaxing before bedtime, such as taking a warm bath.
  • Keep your bedroom or sleep area quiet, comfortable, dark, and free from distractions, such as a TV or computer.
  • Allow yourself about 20 minutes to fall asleep or fall back asleep after waking up. After that, get up and do something relaxing (like reading) until you get sleepy.

Certain activities, foods, and drinks before bedtime can keep you awake. Try to follow these guidelines:

  • Exercise regularly, but not within 3 hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol, chocolate, and drinks that contain caffeine for several hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid large meals and beverages just before bedtime.
  • Avoid bright lights before bedtime.

Other Therapies

Light therapy may help you keep a regular sleep and wake schedule. For this type of therapy, you sit in front of a light box, which has special lights, for 10 to 30 minutes. This therapy can help you feel less sleepy in the morning.

Can I travel with my prescription narcolepsy medications?

Yes, please view our Traveling with Narcolepsy Medication Guide(PDF)

Why isn’t my treatment working?

No two people are the same. Treatments affect people with narcolepsy differently. Be sure to inform your doctor about what’s working and what isn’t. Dosage and timing changes can make a huge difference sometimes.

What if I can’t afford my treatment?

Financial assistance programs are available: