Modafinil: Uses & Dosage

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson tackles the basics behind a medication called modafinil (Provigil). Along the way, you'll learn its major uses as well as its major dosages.


Have you ever been in a job that had you work rotating shifts, some during the days and others during nights? If you've ever had the 'pleasure' of such work, then you know full well how it can mess with your mind and with your body. When switching schedules you feel sleepy when you're awake and awake when you're asleep. Not good.

But there's an app, or pill rather, for that. It's called modafinil. Let's find out more about this medication in this lesson.

Modafinil, known better by its brand name of Provigil, is a type of medication that belongs to a family of medications known as central nervous system stimulants, specifically wakefulness promoting agents. The central nervous system is composed of your brain and spinal cord. Thus, a central nervous stimulant is something that activates your brain so you are more mentally and physically alert. You've almost certainly consumed a drug that does exactly that. Caffeine, anyone?

You can remember the name 'Provigil' by thinking of 'pro-' (for) '-vigil'ance. Anyways, modafinil is a lot more powerful than even the finest double espresso shot imported straight from Italy. Hence the prescription-only status of this medication.


Modafinil is most famously used for the treatment of narcolepsy. Grandpa Simpson from the comedy show The Simpsons is the most famous example of a person with narcolepsy, which is a chronic (persistent) neurological sleep disorder. Its main characteristic is that of overt daytime sleepiness.

Though not fully understood, modafinil may work by activating certain neurons, called orexin neurons, in the brain. By doing so, modafinil keeps the person awake since these neurons, when they work properly, work to suppress sleepiness and promote wakefulness.

Modafinil can also be used for other disorders that cause a person excessive sleepiness. This includes:

  • Excessive sleepiness that occurs when a person suffers from obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome, or slowed or paused breathing during sleep.
  • Shift work sleep disorder, like in our introductory example.


The dosage, or the frequency of administration, of a certain amount of the drug will vary from person to person and the condition(s) they have. The following should never be started, stopped, or changed without the guidance of your doctor.

  • Adults who have narcolepsy may take 200 mg to 600 mg, by mouth, every morning or the same dose may be divided and taken twice a day.
  • Adults with obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome may take 200 mg, by mouth, every morning (once a day).
  • Adults who have shift work sleep disorder may take 200 mg, by mouth, once a day. They should take it about 1 hour before starting their work shift.

Lesson Summary

Hopefully this lesson didn't make you fall asleep! Since it may be making you sleepy, let's quickly summarize what we've learned.

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