A Modafinil Headache: Understanding the Side Effects of ‘Brain Drugs’

A Modafinil Headache: Understanding the Side Effects of ‘Brain Drugs’
A Modafinil Headache: Understanding the Side Effects of ‘Brain Drugs’
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Modafinil Common Side Effect: Headache

If you have taken Modafinil in the middle of your day, and, after a few hours, you started experiencing aches behind your eyes and around your neck, then you are not alone. A Modafinil headache is one of the most common side effects reported by users. But, it doesn’t need to be for you.

Modafinil headaches can be treated to either ward off the pain or treat it. Understanding the causes and treatment options for Modafinil headaches can go a long way toward eliminating them. 

Modafinil: Typical Uses

Before we explain the most experienced side effect of the drug, it is important to know why and when it is typically prescribed. Sold under the brand name Provigil, modafinil is often used to treat conditions such as narcolepsy. 

Additionally, according to its own label, it is “indicated to improve wakefulness in adult patients with depression or mania, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), or shift work disorders.”

Modafinil Headache: Causes

Modafinil is known to cause “tension-type headaches” as a side effect. This type of headache causes a tight feeling around the forehead causing mild to moderate pain in people using the medication. 

The signs to determine headache caused by Modafinil typically involve:

  • No sign of nausea associated with your headache.
  • A feeling of tightness from the forehead may migrate to your neck.
  • A headache that is persistent and dull.
  • A sense of pressure around the eye.
  • Pain that remains constant 
  • Pain does not dissipate with head messages or naps

So, what causes Modafinil headaches?

Information at a Glance:

  • Modafinil headaches do not arise for the first few hours of administration. 
  • Two to three hours after ingestion, Modafinil’s effects, including headaches, peak. 
  • Modafinil headaches may last as long as 10 to 12 hours from the administration time.  

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports headaches are just one of the possible impacts of the medication. Side effects can also include “nausea, nervousness, treatment for the underlying obstruction, rhinitis, diarrhea, back pain, anxiety, insomnia, dizziness, and dyspepsia,” according to its label.

The side effect of a headache, one of the most commonly reported effects, typically occurs for the following reasons:

1. Dose-Dependent Adverse Effect

Clinical trials reported by the FDA showed Modafinil headaches are often dose-dependent. The best way to fix a dosage-dependent headache is by speaking to your medical professional.

You should only take the dose recommended by your physician. It is not recommended to take more than prescribed or take the medication more frequently than advised. 

It is possible, however, that the dose you are taking is not appropriate for your unique, individual needs. Speak with your doctor first about lowering the dosage to see if this can lessen your headaches.

2. Dehydration

Dehydration is a common cause of headaches. Modafinil can bring on dehydration in two ways. First, it can  cause you to focus on one specific task, at the detriment of others, so you just forget to drink water. Second, the drug is a diuretic, which means it can dehydrate you by making you urinate more.

What’s the solution? 

  • Stay hydrated by drinking more fluids while taking Modafinil. Those on the medication should drink at least 100 ounces of water each day.
  • Consider adding reminders on your Smartphone to remind you to drink, if you often forget.
  • Try to replenish electrolytes with drinks like Gatorade or Pedialyte.

3. Overstimulation

Modafinil works by focusing on the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) to stimulate the brain.  The SNS is one half of your nervous system, with the other being the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

The SNS section of the nervous system is essential to regulate our “flight response,” which is typically activated when we are in danger. Therefore, our body is not designed to have an activated SNS for too long.

As the natural response to danger, your body’s SNS reaction usually only lasts 30 minutes to a max of two hours. Modafinil activates the SNS for about 22 hours, causing overstimulation. As a result, many have headaches. 

Clinical studies indicate that migraine is associated with SNS disorder. Overdosing on Modafinil can also elevate the risk of experiencing migraine.

The same overstimulation response to the body makes it hard to sleep. Of course, that is sometimes the entire purpose of the medication, which was designed to help patients with narcolepsy. 

What’s the solution?

  • Try breathing techniques that will assist in keeping you calm and relaxed, further avoiding overstimulation. Breathing techniques help in slowing down the SNS. 
  • When you take a dose of Modafinil, ensure that you take periodic breaks in focus, and do not work constantly through the duration. Consider setting your phone to remind you to break!

4. Depletion of Magnesium

Modafinil causes brain stimulation in order to work. Studies showed that Modafinil causes elevations in “extracellular 5HT that are significant and dose-dependent in the frontal cortex, central nucleus of the amygdala, and dorsal raphe nucleus, but minimal in the hypothalamus.” 

In less scientific terms, this means that the lower your magnesium level, the more toxicity that can deplete nutrients such as Magnesium, which may result in the taker developing headaches. The depletion of the mineral is further compounded by the appetite-suppressing effect of Modafinil, which prevents the repletion of such minerals in the body. 

A magnesium deficiency headache is usually accompanied by other signs, including heart palpitations, insomnia, muscle tension, anxiety, and fatigue. 

What’s the solution?

  • Your medical provider can test you for magnesium deficiency. Taking magnesium supplements while on Modafinil may be a solution.
  • Consumption of food rich in magnesium, such as nuts and dark green, leafy vegetables. 

5. Muscle Tension

Headaches related to muscle tension arising from Modafinil intake are prevalent. Studies have shown that 35 percent of patients experience this side effect when taking the medication.  The medication causes dehydration in many patients, which requires them to increase water intake while on the medication.

Headaches associated with Modafinil may also occur from over-activation of nerves (since it works on the central nervous system) controlling a muscle. The over-activation then causes tension. The condition may worsen by prolonged sitting, bad posture, and loss of appetite.

What’s the solution?

  • Stretch if you are at work. Take breaks from your focus to walk about and move.
  • While working on your computer, sit upright and maintain a healthy posture. 

Provigil Headache: What’s the Connection?

Provigil is simply the brand version of Modafinil and therefore showcases a similar mechanism of action and efficacy. Thus, the chances of Provigil headache are equally as high, similar to the generic versions. In a clinical trial reported by the FDA, 34% of the volunteers taking Provigil suffered from headaches.

How to Prevent Modafinil Headaches 

If you need to take modafinil, here are some ways you can lower your risk of headaches. It is ideal to keep track of your symptoms, in order to find the root cause in your unique case. 

Tracking the symptoms (and their triggers) is easiest with a tracker tool, which you can read more about here. Bring the tracker to your next doctor’s appointment to share with your provider.


A tension headache is often due to inadequate sleep. Since Modafinil stimulates the brain to promote wakefulness and alertness, getting adequate sleep while on Modafinil is essential. To avoid insomnia, take the dosage in the morning and avoid taking it later in the day. You can also try meditations to help you rest.

Correct Dosage

A standard starting dose of Modafinil is 200mg. In the hope of getting better results, many patients may take more than prescribed. It then may result in Modafinil overdosing, often characterised by headaches.

Do Not Mix Modafinil 

Modafinil doses should not be taken with other medications or stimulants The intake of Modafinil in conjunction  with stimulants such as caffeine can result in headaches. So, you can try to avoid administering other stimulants with Modafinil to see if it helps. 

If you have already been prescribed a stimulating medication, speak to your doctor about the potential side effects or interactions. Be clear with your provider about all medications you are taking, both prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Anxiety Medication

Anxiety is a notable side effect of Modafinil. Suffering from anxiety can worsen a Modafinil headache. Thus, anti-anxiety medications and treatment techniques, such as meditation, can help manage Modafinil headaches.

You can also eliminate your Modafinil headache related to stress by taking melatonin before bed, consuming an L-Theanine supplement after meals, or rubbing Magnesium Oil on your body. 

Modafinil Patients’ Feedback 

The Modafinil headache is a topic often discussed on Reddit. Here’s what some of them had to say.


“I take about 300 mg a day, which I am prescribed,” said Reddit User PlasticJesus504. “I had headaches initially, but after I started hydrating properly and eating regularly, I haven’t had a headache since.”

Other users agreed that hydration seemed to be the stem of their issues, too.

“I get [headaches] when I forget to drink,” said Reddit User Interstellar_Being. “Normally, I drink three to four litres [of water] per day. On Modafinil, I have to force myself to drink, otherwise the headache starts.”

Still others, however, noted that, in their experience, it was not a level of hydration that worsened their side effect.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m hydrated or not, the headache always comes,” said user Fearful Eyes. “That’s why I immediately take the Advil at the same time as Modafinil.”

Choline Supplement

Some users on Reddit suggested that taking a Choline Supplement eased their symptoms. Some Modafinil headache Reddit reviewers suggested using choline to improve headaches.

“Hey, I sometimes got headaches with Modafinil, too,” said Carolyn31. “But I now take choline or ACLAR, and it has really stopped the headaches.”

User Ebenvic agreed.

“Choline absolutely gets rid of headaches! I have been taking it for years,” they said.

Talk to your doctor before adding any supplement to your diet. The treatment options for Modafinil headache may vary, and though some users of the medication have found Choline to help, it is best to consult your physician before adding the essential nutrient into the mix.

Clinical evidence suggests the association of cluster headaches can be found in those with lower levels of choline in their bodies. One can try taking Modafinil concurrently with Choline and Alpha-GlyceroPhosphoCholine (Alpha GPC) to ease headache symptoms.

Choline is an essential nutrient that “supports your lipid metabolism and liver health,” according to Cleveland Clinic. “Your liver produces some choline, but most of the choline your body needs comes from the food you eat. Your body needs choline to function properly.”

Cleveland Clinic reports that “Choline helps:

  • Your brain and central nervous system control your memory and mood.
  • Your liver and muscles work correctly.
  • Your cells form and repair their membranes.
  • Your lipids break down and convert into energy.”

Modafinil Headache: Final Thoughts 

A Modafinil headache is one of the common adverse effects of the Nootropic, affecting up to 34% of the people taking it. Many people experience severe headaches that interfere with their lives or lead them to stop using 

In some cases, Modafinil headaches may be preventable. Employing the correct preventive measures and treatment options can help reduce the chances of headaches. The first step would be to identify the cause of your headache, and then make lifestyle modifications in order to keep the condition at bay. 

Only you and your healthcare provider can decide what is right for your body. If the side effects of Modafinil outweigh its benefits, you might consider lowering your dose or discontinuing use. 

Speak to your doctor to understand your options, and choose the healthiest way to medicate your body. If your headaches prevent you from being able to focus or stay comfortable, consider eliminating the medication if necessary.

DISCLAIMER: MedShadow provides information and resources related to medications, their effects, and potential side effects. However, it is important to note that we are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The content on our site is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Individuals dealing with medical conditions or symptoms should seek guidance from a licensed healthcare professional, such as a physician or pharmacist, who can provide personalized medical advice tailored to their specific circumstances.

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Marlene Henderson

I have been taking 300-400 mg provigil for several years and have had horrible headaches especially in the warmer weather. I would like to cut down to 200 mg but then I get tired and depressed.
Thank you for your informative article

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