Yes, modafinil can cause headaches, and that is very common and the best part is that it is completely preventable. Staying hydrated, using deep breathing techniques, maintaining a balanced diet, and incorporating medications and supplements such as ibuprofen and choline can effectively treat headaches associated with Modafinil.
In the pursuit of achieving peak productivity, you introduce Modafinil dosage to your work routine only to experience a headache when you are juggling through multiple tasks on your hand. If so, you are not alone!
Even though it is not ideal to experience a headache when you are aiming to power through the day, it is reassuring to know that it is a common experience for many other users. With the treatment options, headaches due to Modafinil can be prevented and treated effectively.
An Introduction To Modafinil And Its Possible Health Risks
Modafinil, first developed in the 1990s, is a novel wakefulness-promoting medication approved for the treatment of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS) due to Narcolepsy, Sleep apnea, and shift work disorder. Most physicians recommend people to get Modafinil 200 mg tablets due to its low abuse potency and high clinical efficacy.
Modafinil, like any other medication, follows and passes through a number of organ systems to get metabolized and produce its desired effect. Thus, a side effect may arise from its effect on these body functions. In the case of Modafinil, apart from headache, its use can result in side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, blurry vision, tarry stool, nervousness, insomnia, and back pain.
Why Does Modafinil Cause Headaches?
Headaches from any medication, including Modafinil, may result from Vasodilation.
Modafinil causes vasodilation, which relaxes and widens the blood vessels of the muscles, allowing more blood to flow. Even though Vasodilation itself doesn't cause headaches, the sudden changes in the blood vessel size from taking Modafinil may result in headaches.
Six other factors contributing to headaches from Modafinil are listed below.
Dose-Dependent Adverse Effect
Headaches from Modafinil are often dose-dependent, as suggested by clinical trials by the FDA. The higher the dose of Modafinil, the higher the risk of experiencing headaches.
The brain can contract when the body is dehydrated due to fluid loss, causing pain and dehydration headaches. Modafinil's ability to enhance cognition and attention, along with its diuretic effect (medicine that causes excessive urination), can result in dehydration, which may result in a headache.
Appetite Suppressing Effects Of Modafinil
Modafinil can cause a reduction in hunger, which was also scientifically proven in a 2018 study by Gydmer A. Perez et al. . This may often result in a lack of intake of a balanced diet and hunger.
A hunger headache may arise when the blood sugar level begins to drop. In response, the body releases certain hormones that signal the brain that you are hungry.
Depletion Of Magnesium
The relationship between low levels of magnesium and tension headaches and migraines was established by a 2020 study by Jeanette A. Maier et al. . Modafinil can cause depletion of certain nutrients, including magnesium, which may result in a headache. It is further compounded by the appetite-suppressing effects of Modafinil, which makes it very common for such users to skip their daily meals, thus preventing them from replenishing their lost magnesium level.
The eugeroic properties of Modafinil, which is intended to enhance wakefulness, may induce insomnia if taken later in the day. Inadequate sleep can often result in tension headaches, as suggested by J. N. Blau in a 1990 study.
Overstimulation of the Nervous System
Modafinil causes migraines and tension-type headaches by the overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which leads to higher blood pressure and an increase in heart rate. The sympathetic nervous system regulates the "flight response," which is activated during danger and may last for about 2 hours.
Since our body is not designed to have long hours of activated SNS, prolonged stimulation of the SNS for up to 22 hours due to Modafinil may result in headaches or migraines.
Note- Not all the factors mentioned above will result in headaches due to Modafinil intake. Your headache may arise from one or a combination of the causes listed here.
Facts On Modafinil-Induced Headache-
Headache doesn't cause headaches in the first few hours of administration. It arises when Modafinil's blood concentration reaches its peak around 2 to 3 hours after intake.
The half-life of Modafinil affects the duration of action and its side effects, including headaches. Thus, headaches caused by Modafinil may last up to 12 hours.
According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), headache is a common side effect of Modafinil reported in more than five percent of its users.
Modafinil headaches have been clinically reported in 34% of test subjects, according to a 2007 study by Roth T et al. entitled "Evaluation of the safety of modafinil for the treatment of excessive sleepiness." 
Identifying Symptoms Of Modafinil-Induced Headache
Headaches may arise due to numerous health conditions, and it is important to note that not everyone taking Modafinil will experience a headache. So, it is important to identify headaches associated with Modafinil.
The symptoms of identifying and distinguishing a headache caused by Modafinil from others are:
A dull and persistent headache.
Experiencing tightness on the forehead that may migrate to the neck.
Feeling pressure between the eyes.
Discomfort or pain that does not go away with a head massage or naps.
A constant feeling of pain.
Headache Relief- 4 Ways To Get Rid Of Headache From Modafinil
Four scientifically proven and medically recommended ways to manage the causes of headaches for faster relief from pain are mentioned below.
Dehydration is one of Modafinil's most common side effects that may further result in headaches. The best way to treat a dehydration headache is to address the fluid loss. Thus, such individuals should-
Increase their fluid intake by drinking enough water or juice. Men should have 15.5 cups (3.7 liters or 125.112 ounces) of water regularly, and women should consume 11.5 cups (2.7 liters or 91.2979 ounces) of water regularly, as suggested by the Mayo Clinic.
On average, drink at least 2 liters of water while taking Modafinil 100 mg and 4 liters of water when taking Modafinil 200 mg tablets.
Drinking sports drinks to replace the lost electrolytes is recommended by the health information site Medical News Today.
Sucking on ice cubes is helpful.
Maintain A Balanced Diet-
It may be easy to skip meals when taking Modafinil due to its appetite-suppressing activity. To treat hunger-associated headaches, ensure a healthy and balanced diet after or before taking the Modafinil dosage.
Cure Headache From SNS Overstimulation-
Try techniques to relax and calm down the SNS to avoid and cure headaches due to its overstimulation.
Deep breathing exercises can help reduce SNS stimulation, thus lowering your anxiety level and helping with headaches. So, try 2 to 3 minutes of slow breathing. You can also count to 5 while breathing in and then count to 10 while breathing out.
Try Medications And Supplements-
Apart from lifestyle changes, taking pain medication may help get faster relief. Below is a list of medications and supplements to treat headaches brought on by Modafinil.
- Pain medications
Pain medicines such as Ibuprofen, Aleve, and Aspirin are considered the first line of treatment for treating headaches. However, before taking Modafinil and ibuprofen, it is important to consult a medical professional to avoid any possible drug interaction.
- Anti-anxiety medications
Many scientific papers, including a 2017 study by Tae-Jin Song et al., suggest that headaches due to Modafinil can increase anxiety levels. Thus, taking anti-anxiety medications or anxiolytic supplements can help reduce its possibility. Some effective options for anxiety-reducing supplements include L-theanine, Magnesium, and Melatonin.
These anti-anxiety medications should be taken in the following ways-
Take L-theanine supplement after your meals on days when you take Modafinil dosage.
You can also rub some magnesium oil on the body if needed.
Lastly, take about 3 mg of Melatonin before going to bed.
- Take Choline Supplements
Taking Choline supplements can reduce headaches, as a lower concentration of erythrocyte choline was measured in patients with cluster headaches in a 1984 study by J. de Belleroche et al.
The following are the best sources of Choline-
Soy Lecithin- 2.5 to 9.5 percent choline by weight.
Phosphatidylcholine- 13% of choline by weight
CDP-Choline- 18% of Choline by weight
Alpha-GlyceroPhosphoCholine (Alpha GPC)- 40% of Choline by weight.
Choline Bitartrate- 40% of Choline by weight.
Taking choline and modafinil together can also help manage signs of headache.
5 Preventive Measures For Modafinil Associated Headaches
The risk of headaches from Modafinil can be minimized and prevented by incorporating the following five ways, as shown in the image below.
Getting Enough Sleep-
Getting enough sleep by taking the Modafinil dosage in the morning by 10 am or avoiding its administration in the afternoon or evening can help you avoid headaches. Ensure you get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep every day.
Lower Modafinil Dosage-
Modafinil-associated headaches can arise due to overdosing, and thus, following a correct dosage regimen can help. Beginners should take Modafinil 100 to 200 mg per day and 1 to 3 times per week. One can also split their Modafinil dose into two smaller doses.
Avoid Taking Modafinil With Other Stimulants-
Stacking Modafinil with other stimulants, such as caffeine, for better results may often cause headaches as a withdrawal symptom. Thus, it is advised to avoid the intake of Modafinil with other medications and supplements.
Maintaining a Proper Posture-
The ability to increase Modafinil's focus and attention span often results in long hours of desk work. Since most people have poor posture while working on their desktops, it may induce a state of stress across the muscles of the neck, head, and upper shoulders, resulting in tension-type headaches. Such headaches can be prevented with frequent breaks during the day and stretching for 5 to 10 minutes after every 1 or 2 hours.
Get More Physical Exercise-
One of the best ways to manage and prevent headaches from muscle tension is to get enough exercise. Numerous studies indicate that headaches associated with Modafinil can be prevented with frequent exercise, which was also further supported by a 2018 study by Faisal Mohammad Amin et al. that discussed the association between migraine and physical exercise.
Regular 20 to 30 minutes of running or jogging can help prevent headaches. However, while exercising, do remember to stay hydrated.
When To Seek Medical Help?
Modafinil headaches are not a major health concern, and they often go away with time and do not require immediate medical attention. However, call 911 or your local emergency number if symptoms such as Nausea, Stiff neck, Confusion, Weakness, and High fever accompany the headache.
Further schedule a doctor's visit in the following cases-
If you experience headaches often, even hours after the effects of Modafinil have worn out.
If the condition does not improve with the medications and lifestyle changes mentioned above.
Modafinil Headaches- Our Final Thoughts
Modafinil headache is a very common side effect affecting more than five percent of its users. However, the beneficial effects of Modafinil can be enjoyed without experiencing headaches by following preventive measures such as proper posture, exercise, sleep, following a correct dosage regimen, and avoiding drug interactions.
A summary of all our findings on headache by Modafinil is listed below to help you identify and treat the condition efficiently.
Headache is not experienced in the first few hours of administering Modafinil.
After 2 to 3 hours after administration, headache signs may arise.
In a few cases, a headache arising from Modafinil intake may last 10 to 12 hours.
Dehydration, overstimulation of the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), depletion Of Magnesium, lack of sleep due to Modafinil, higher dosage, and its appetite effects may contribute to causing a headache.
The bottom line is, Yes, Modafinil can cause headaches, which are very common and are completely preventable and treatable.
If you have any queries related to Modafinil or its ability to cause a headache, you can reach us at [email protected].