Modafinil used to improve cognitive performance affects brain dopamine activity; suggests abuse & dependence potential

Preliminary research in healthy men suggests that the narcolepsy drug modafinil, increasingly being used to enhance cognitive abilities, affects the activity of dopamine in the brain in a way that may create the potential for abuse and dependence, according to a study in the March 18, 2009 issue of .

Modafinil, a wake-promoting drug used in the treatment of sleep disorders, may enhance cognition and is used off-label for the treatment of cognitive dysfunction in some psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Continue reading

Skin, core body temperatures affects narcoleptics’ vigilance, sleepiness

In healthy people, both sleepiness and vigilance show a relationship with core body temperature and skin temperature. When core body temperature is high during the daytime, skin temperature is low, which translates into optimal vigilance.

Researchers noted during a recent study, though, that when core body temperature is low at night time, skin temperature is high, which correlates to optimal sleep. Among those suffering from narcolepsy, however, direct manipulations of their skin and core body temperatures affect their vigilance and sleepiness. Continue reading

Many narcoleptics with cataplexy have eating disorders

The majority of patients with narcolepsy/cataplexy experience a number of symptoms of eating disorders, with an irresistible craving for food and binge eating as the most prominent features, according to a published in the March 1 issue of the journal .

Study authors Hal Droogleever Fortuyn, M.D., and Sebastiaan Overeem, M.D., of the in The Netherlands, focused on 60 patients who had been diagnosed with narcolepsy with cataplexy (N/C) who were recruited from specialized sleep centers and 120 healthy controls.

According to the results, 23.3 percent of the N/C patients fulfilled the criteria for a clinical eating disorder, as opposed to none of the control subjects. Half of the patients reported a persistent craving for food, as well as binge eating. Twenty-five percent of patients even reported binging at least twice a week.

"These data make it clear that narcolepsy is not just a sleeping disorder, but a hypothalamic disease with a much broader symptom profile," said Fortuyn.

"Hypocretin, the neurotransmitter that is lost in narcolepsy, has been implicated in the regulation of feeding through animal studies. Earlier studies in narcolepsy found a clear increase in body weight. However, we did not find a correlation between binge eating and increased weight," said Fortuyn. "Binge eating is apparently not the direct cause of the obesity in narcolepsy, and this suggests that metabolic alterations may be involved. Nevertheless, our study shows that the loss of hypocretin function makes narcolepsy patients not only struggle with staying awake, but also destabilizes their eating pattern, which makes it harder to stay away from the candy jar."

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes people to fall asleep uncontrollably during the day. It also includes features of dreaming that occur while awake. Other common symptoms include sleep paralysis, hallucinations and cataplexy. It’s estimated that about one out of every 2,000 people is known to have narcolepsy, and it affects men and women equally.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers the following tips on how to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
  • Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.
  • Get a full night’s sleep every night.
  • Avoid foods or drinks that contain caffeine, as well as any medicine that has a stimulant, prior to bedtime.
  • Do not bring your worries to bed with you.
  • Do not go to bed hungry, but don’t eat a big meal before bedtime either.
  • Avoid any rigorous exercise within six hours of your bedtime.
  • Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool.
  • Get up at the same time every morning.