There is no cure for narcolepsy, but it is manageable through medication and lifestyle changes. Your physician will work with you to create the right treatment plan. It may include the following:
- Stimulants: Your physician may prescribe a stimulant to help you stay awake during the day. Many physicians choose modafinil (Provigil) first for narcolepsy because it is less addictive and has fewer side effects compared to other stimulants. Other medications prescribed for narcolepsy include methylphenidate (Ritalin) or amphetamines.
- SSRIs or antidepressants: These medications are often prescribed to treat cataplexy as well as other narcolepsy symptoms, including hallucinations and sleep paralysis. The effects vary depending on the medication your physician recommends. In severe cases of cataplexy, your physician may prescribe sodium oxybate (GHB).
Your physician may also recommend lifestyle changes to help you manage the symptoms of narcolepsy. You will need to keep a consistent sleep schedule (sleeping and waking at same time every day), including weekends. If possible, you should also schedule short 20-minute naps throughout the day. To increase your energy during the day, get regular exercise and avoid the use of tobacco, alcohol or drugs.
If you think you may have narcolepsy, talk to the specialists at Northwestern Medicine.