Modafinil is a drug that promotes wakefulness, it’s approved by the FDA as a safe alternative to other stimulants. It also helps with narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder and daytime fatigue that is caused by sleep apnea. Modafinil is also used off-label in the treatment of ADHD and as a nootropic or smart drug. Even though there has been extensive research the precise mechanisms of action is still unclear. However we do have an understanding of how Modafinil works in general.
How does Modafinil work?
Modafinil helps to elevate levels of hypothalamic histamine. Researchers found this to be a wakefulness-promoting agent, compared to the other amphetamine type stimulants on the market.
Modafinil has the ability to inhibit many of the actions of the dopamine transporter. This leads to a boost in extracellular, and thus, synaptic concentrations of dopamine.
One of the considered mechanisms of action involves orexins, which are brain peptides. Orexin neurons can be found within the hypothalamus, but also projects to several different parts of the brain, including many areas that can regulate wakefulness in the body.
Activating these neurons will help to increase the dopamine and norepinephrine levels in those areas, and increases histamine levels in the histaminergic neurons. Studies involving rats have shown that Modafinil increases the histamine release levels in the brain, which can be a possible mechanism of action in humans as well.
Orexin receptors 1 and 2 are the two orexin receptors in the body. Animals that have defective orexin systems show symptoms that are similar to narcolepsy. Modafinil appears to activate these orexin neurons in the animal models, and they help to promote wakefulness.
Modafinil Benefits and Dosages
Typically the prescribed dosage is one 200 mg pill per day. However most users start at 100mg if their goal is to use Modafinil as a smart drug and not as a treatment to any particular health condition.
For conditions that aren’t shift work related, Modafinil is usually taken during the morning hours. Taking Modafinil later in the day can make it difficult to fall asleep at night.
Modafinil was also shown to be an effective treatment for ADHD.