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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the best treatment for narcolepsy?

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    Dr David Cunnington

    Respiratory & Sleep Medicine Physician

    Specialist sleep physician delivering a high standard of clinical care to clients with complex sleep problems and promoting sleep health through research, education and advocacy. … View Profile

    There is no single best treatment for narcolepsy, as treatment is usually tailored to an individual's symptoms and made up of a combination of non-drug strategies and medications. The main types of treatment used in narcolepsy are treatments to help stay awake during the day, treatments to help stay asleep at night, and treatments to reduce cataplexy (sudden muscle weakness). 

    To help stay awake during the day, napping is an important strategy to help get through the day, as is allowing enough time for sleep and not scheduling too much in to each day. If these measures aren't enough medications, such as dexamphetamine, Ritalin or modafinil can be used in addition. However if medications are used without paying attention to napping and allowing enough time for sleep they are often not as effective as we wish them to be. 

    To help with staying asleep, learning good sleep habits and managing worries are very important. In addition to this sleep promoting medications such as sleeping tablets can be used if needed. 

    To reduce cataplexy avoiding becoming over-tired is the first step. If this is not enough, REM suppressing medication such as anti-depressant medications can be added. 

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