Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Seeking Sound Sleep?

I have been diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia/narcolepsy and have been prescribed Provigil. The medication helps, but since it is relatively new, I am concerned about long-term effects. Can you recommend a healthy, effective alternative?

Answer (Published 4/27/2004)

Idiopathic hypersomnia and narcolepsy are two different sleep disorders that sometimes overlap. Both cause excessive daytime sleepiness as well as poor quality of nighttime sleep. With narcolepsy, you can suddenly fall asleep at any time, a big danger if you happen to be driving. Other symptoms include cataplexy (the sudden loss of voluntary muscle tone, often triggered by strong emotions), hallucinations when you're falling asleep or as you're waking up, and brief episodes of total paralysis at the onset and end of sleep.

Related Weil Products
Weil Vitamin Advisor Sleep Assessment - Restful, restorative sleep is fundamental to health and happiness. Learn how to address your unique sleep needs - take the Weil Vitamin Advisor Sleep Assessment and get your complimentary recommendation today.

Hypersomnia leads to the urge to nap during the day, no matter what you're doing. Other symptoms may include anxiety, increased irritation, decreased energy, restlessness, slow thinking and speech, loss of appetite, hallucinations and memory problems. Hypersomnia may be caused by narcolepsy (or sleep apnea, another sleep disorder), drug or alcohol abuse, a tumor, or injury to the head or central nervous system. Multiple sclerosis, depression, encephalitis, epilepsy or obesity can also be contributing factors.

Provigil (also known as modafinil) reportedly has fewer of the speedy side effects of older stimulants (amphetamines) used to treat hypersomnia/narcolepsy. According to Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., a sleep specialist here at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, Provigil allows people with these sleep disorders to function more normally by masking the symptoms of sleepiness. However, it doesn't treat the underlying causes of the disorders.

Along with the medication, Dr. Naiman suggests learning to sleep more healthily by optimizing general nutrition, eliminating alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, exercising regularly and napping routinely as needed. Nutrients that can help manage narcolepsy include calcium and magnesium, choline, chromium picolinate, coenzyme Q10, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin C complex (including bioflavonoids) and vitamins D and E. Some research suggests that the supplement 5-HTP may help those with narcolepsy by reducing the duration of cataplexy and improving nighttime sleep.

In addition, food intolerances may be linked to narcolepsy. Ask your physician (or a nutritionist) about an elimination diet. Wheat, dairy products, corn and chocolate are the foods most commonly implicated. Dr. Naiman further recommends breathing exercises to manage stress, and encourages the recording of your dreams (in a journal) to better understand them and to explore the psychological and spiritual impact of your sleep disorders. You also might consider joining a narcolepsy/hypersomnia support group. For information, contact the Narcolepsy Network.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here