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Narcolepsy Treatment

Currently, Narcolepsy cannot be cured. Intensive research continues to find a cure, but the loss of hypocretin is believed to be irreversible and lifelong. However, Narcolepsy can be safely controlled in most individuals with regular drug treatment. The leading medications are Xyrem®, Provigil® and Nuvigil®.

Drug therapy should accompany various behavioral strategies according to the needs of the affected individual:

  • Take short, regularly scheduled naps at times when sufferers tend to feel sleepiest
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine-containing beverages for several hours before bedtime
  • Avoid smoking, especially at night
  • Maintain a comfortable, adequately warmed bedroom
  • Engage in relaxing activities such as a warm bath before bedtime
  • Exercising for at least 20 minutes per day no closer than four to five hours before bedtime
  • 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
  • Avoid large meals and beverages just before bedtime
  • Avoid bright lights before bedtime


Central Nervous Stimulants

Some central nervous system stimulants may be beneficial for wakefulness such as:

  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Ritalin SR®, Methylin®, Methylin ER®)
  • Mixed Amphetamine Salts (Adderall IR®, Adderall XR®)
  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®, Dexedrine SR®)
  • Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse®)

Cataplexy Medication

Sodium Oxybate (XYREM®) – also FDA-approved for reducing Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS)

REM Sleep Medications

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®)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft®)
  • Older Tricyclic antidepressants like Protriptyline (Triptil® and Vivactil®)
  • Imipramine (Janimine® and Tofranil®)
  • Desipramine (Norpramine® and Pertofran®)
  • Clomipramine (Anafranil®)

Light Therapy

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 also help you feel less sleepy in the morning.

Find a Physician

Use our convenient Physician Finder to locate a Narcolepsy expert near you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I travel with my prescription Narcolepsy medications?

Yes, please view our Traveling with Narcolepsy Medication Guide.

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:

Where do I go if I think I have Narcolepsy?

A sleep center is a great place to start. Visit to find one near you. You may need a referral from your primary care doctor.

What kind of doctor should I visit if I think I have Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder. Different types of doctors treat Narcolepsy, including neurologists, sleep doctors, pulmonologists, psychiatrists and primary care doctors.

Many sleep doctors at sleep centers are primarily pulmonologists specializing in sleep-related respiratory/breathing disorders like sleep apnea. A sleep doctor who is primarily a pulmonologist may be sufficient for initial consultation and diagnosis. A pulmonologist may or may not be familiar with current Narcolepsy treatments. Once receiving diagnosis, one may inquire about the doctor’s familiarity and experience with treating Narcolepsy. You can always seek a second opinion about your diagnosis or treatment.

What if I can’t find a doctor specializing in Narcolepsy?

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough Narcolepsy specialist in America. If you think you may have Narcolepsy, bring it up to your primary care doctor or sleep specialist.

How do I find out if my doctor’s familiar with Narcolepsy?

Ask your doctor how many patients they have treated. Have they ever diagnosed Narcolepsy? Are they currently treating others with Narcolepsy? Inquire whether they stays up-to-date on Narcolepsy treatments. Treatment options have increased in the past 10 years so it’s important that your doctor be well-informed.