Modafinil is a drug which promotes wakefulness and alertness. It was originally designed to treat several sleep-related disorders, including narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea.
When used off-label, it is also a genuinely astounding smart drug. It’s a great tool to achieve laser sharp focus and accomplish your goals.
Because of how effectively it can promote an enhanced state of alertness, professionals sometimes use modafinil as a cognitive enhancer. So do students. And, not surprisingly, its use in this way is continiously on the rise.
Using it as a smart drug can be tricky though. The most commonly reported problem is that it makes it difficult to fall asleep (1). Considering modafinil’s initial purpose, that, of course, makes perfect sense.
Thankfully, modafinil insomnia is an easy issue to avoid. It’s not so much a side effect as it is an improper use of this stimulant. And there are specific measures you can take to prevent this sometimes uncomfortable (and often annoying) experience.
A Little on How Modafinil Works
As mentioned, modafinil’s reason for existing is to promote wakefulness and alertness. So, it shouldn’t be a shock that using it will make it hard to fall asleep.
Behind the scenes, research has shown modafinil to decrease the production of GABA (2). GABA is the neurotransmitter responsible for blocking impulses between brain nerve cells.
On average, modafinil has a half-life of 12 hours (6). That is quite long when compared to other stimulants or eugeroics.
Just as a reminder, the half-life of a drug is the amount of time it takes for your body to eliminate half the amount. Past that point, even though half the substances is still there, you hardly feel its effects.
How Modafinil Affects Sleep
The increase in excitatory neurotransmitters together with modafinil’s long half-life makes it very difficult to go to sooner than 10 to 12 hours after taking it.
Few realize this, but modafinil also potentiates the effects of just about any other stimulating substance you take at the same time (7).
In other words, even a small dose of modafinil can really mess with your rest if you have a cup of coffee that same afternoon or evening.
Can You Sleep on Modafinil
Sleeping after using modafinil is, of course, possible. There are several things you can do to make sure you don’t miss out on a good night’s rest. Combining more than one of these methods will further increase your chances.
Take It Early
Don’t take modafinil before bed. Timing its use correctly is the single most effective thing you can do to ensure it doesn’t keep you up at night.
If you’re a 9-to-5-er, the best time to take it is right after breakfast.
By introducing modafinil to your system at an absolute minimum of 10 to 12 hours before you plan on retiring for the night, you should have no issues falling asleep.
What if you miss that window? Not all is lost.
A lesser known fact about modafinil is that it works differently when taken sublingually. You do so by placing and holding a pill under your tongue for 10 to 20 minutes.
Sublingual administration increases the potency of modafinil and hastens its onset (8). But, it also shortens the overall experience.
If you miss your chance to take it early in the morning, the sublingual method may be something to consider. Though it will give you an even stronger boost (and you may, therefore, think about reducing the dose), the stimulant should be entirely out of your system by night time.
Be Smart With the Dose
The recommended modafinil dose is between 100 mg and 200 mg per day. But, taking as little as 50 mg (or about 1/4 of a standard pill) may be all you need.
Even at that amount, the effect, while subtle, may be enough to get you in the zone and keep you there for a long time. This statement is especially true when taking the eugeroic sublingually.
That’s not to say you may not want to ever use the full 200 mg. Doing so has its time and place. It’s just not always necessary.
Like most drugs, modafinil will work very differently from person to person and, with time, you will to find the right dose for your purpose. Listen to your body, take notes, and only use as much as you need.
Research has shown split-dosing also extends modafinil’s effects for longer compared to taking it once a day (9). Doing so will almost certainly prevent your from sleeping for at least 16 hours, if not more. So, avoid doing it if getting rest is your concern.
Limit Caffeine Intake Late in the Day
As mentioned earlier, modafinil will potentiate other stimulants. Caffeine already increases levels of norepinephrine (10), the neurotransmitter responsible for the fight and flight response. Combining coffee with modafinil will make one cup feel like three.
The best way to enjoy a cup of Jo when using modafinil is in small, spaced out sips. This method will help avoid any of its side effects, which may include anxiety and an increased heart rate (11).
You should also completely avoid coffee later in the day. With modafinil still in your system, having even a small amount late in the afternoon is a sure way to insomnia.
Use Other Supplements to Help You Sleep
There are several natural sleep aids which may ease the process of getting rest after a day spent on modafinil.
Valerian root and magnesium are two naturally occurring substances which will relax you and make it easier for you to doze off at night. Melatonin should also help.
Disengage Your Brain
One problem society faces is a constant need to work. It’s the main reason many people find it difficult to go to sleep at night, even when not on modafinil.
Adding modafinil to the mix amplifies the problem to sometimes uncomfortable levels. It can make the motivation to work last well into the night, making sleep very difficult in the process.
After a day of using modafinil, force yourself to disconnect well before bedtime. Turn off the laptop. Leave your phone in another room.
Television is also out of the question. Not only does it continue to engage your brain, but it also emits blue light. Blue light deters melatonin production (12), making going to sleep even harder.
Summary on Modafinil and Sleep
There are many benefits to using modafinil off-label. It keeps you awake, focused, and getting things done. Unfortunately, few people know how to take it correctly.
You, however, now do. By following the above guidelines, you can make the most out of your modafinil use. You’ll be able to enjoy a full day of productivity, followed by a much needed night of rest thereafter.
- u/throwawaytoday12345. Having trouble sleeping after modafinil. Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/1doywn/having_trouble_sleeping_after_modafinil/
- Ferraro L, et al. The vigilance promoting drug modafinil decreases GABA release in the medial preoptic area and in the posterior hypothalamus of the awake rat: possible involvement of the serotonergic 5-HT3 receptor. Neurosci Lett. 1996 Dec 6;220(1):5-8.
- Nora D. Volkow, et al. Effects of Modafinil on Dopamine and Dopamine Transporters in the Male Human Brain: Clinical Implications. JAMA. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 Mar 18.
- Madras BK, et al. Modafinil occupies dopamine and norepinephrine transporters in vivo and modulates the transporters and trace amine activity in vitro. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2006 Nov;319(2):561-9. Epub 2006 Aug 2.
- Ishizuka T, et al. Modafinil increases histamine release in the anterior hypothalamus of rats. Neurosci Lett. 2003 Mar 20;339(2):143-6.
- C. Ballas, D.F. Dinges. Stimulant and Wake-Promoting Substances. Encyclopedia of Neuroscience. 2009.
- Maddalena Mereu, et al. The Unique Psychostimulant Profile of (±)-Modafinil: Investigation of Behavioral and Neurochemical Effects in Mice. Eur J Neurosci. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2018 Jan 1.
- Modafinil works much better when taken sublingually. Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://www.reddit.com/r/afinil/comments/2y82my/modafinil_works_much_better_when_taken/
- Schwartz JR, et al. Dosing regimen effects of modafinil for improving daytime wakefulness in patients with narcolepsy. Clin Neuropharmacol. 2003 Sep-Oct;26(5):252-7.
- Kathryn A. Glatter, et al. Recommendations Regarding Dietary Intake and Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption in Patients With Cardiac Arrhythmias: What Do You Tell Your Patients To Do or Not To Do? Curr Treat Options Cardiovasc Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2013 Oct 1.
- Daniele Wikoff, et al. Systematic review of the potential adverse effects of caffeine consumption in healthy adults, pregnant women, adolescents, and children. Food and Chemical Toxicology. Volume 109, Part 1, November 2017, Pages 585-648.
- Gianluca Tosini, et al. Effects of blue light on the circadian system and eye physiology. Mol Vis. 2016; 22: 61–72.