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“Understanding Modafinil Headaches and Side Effects of Smart Drugs”

Modafinil is a brain drug that is often prescribed to treat conditions like narcolepsy. Unfortunately, one of the most common side effects of Modafinil is modafinil headache. There are various anecdotal instances of nootropic users who have to discontinue using the drug due to the excruciating headaches that they were experiencing.(1) Apart from headaches, modafinil can also cause several other side effects. Continue reading to know more about modafinil headaches and understand the side effects of “Smart drugs”.

What Is Modafinil?

Before we get into knowing what modafinil headaches are and what other side effects could the brain drug have, we should know why and when is modafinil usually prescribed. Modafinil is sold under the brand name “Provigil”. It is generally used for treating conditions like narcolepsy or excessive sleeping. However, it is widely used off-license as a ‘smart drug” for promoting cognitive enhancement or improving alertness.

Apart from this, its label mentions that modafinil helps in improving wakefulness in adult patients with mania or depression, shift work disorders, and obstructive sleep apnea.(2)

What is Modafinil Headache?

Modafinil headaches are one of the most common side effects reported by users who take Modafinil. Modafinil headaches are also known as “tension-type headaches” and such types of headaches cause a tight feeling around your forehead and result in mild to moderate pain.

You might experience signs of nausea along with headache, a sense of pressure around your eyes, and a feeling of tightness in your forehead that might migrate to your neck. Modafinil headaches may last as long as 12 hours from the time of administration of the medication. You will start experiencing these headaches are two to three hours of ingesting modafinil.

Possible Side Effects of “Smart Drugs”  

Modafinil headaches are often associated with some other side effects. Some other side effects of the smart drugs include nausea, nervousness, insomnia, anxiety, and more.

Dose-Dependent Adverse Effect

Usually, modafinil headaches are dose-dependent. If you take the wrong dose or take an excessive dose of the drug, you might experience dose-dependent adverse effects, including headaches that are severe and painful.

The best way to fix a dose-dependent adverse effect of modafinil is by consulting with your doctor and taking the appropriate dosage.


One of the major side effects of these “smart drugs” is dehydration. Modafinil drug can result in dehydration in two ways. First, it is a diuretic, and this means that it can dehydrate you by making you urinate in excess. Second, modafinil can cause you to focus on one particular task, so you forget to drink water and this can lead to dehydration.


Modafinil acts by focusing on your sympathetic nervous system or SNS to stimulate your brain. The SNS section of the nervous system regulates our “flight response”, which gets activated typically when we are in danger. This, our body is not designed to have an activated sympathetic nervous system for too long.

While responding to danger naturally, the SNS reaction of your body generally lasts only 30 minutes to two hours. However, modafinil activates the sympathetic nervous system for about 22 hours, thus causing overstimulation. This in, turn, results in severe headaches.

Clinical studies have suggested that migraine is linked with SNS disorder. Taking an overdose of Modafinil can also elevate the risk of you experiencing migraine.(3)

This overstimulation response to the body not only causes headaches but also makes it harder to sleep.

Muscle Tension

Headaches that are associated with muscle tension arising from the intake of modafinil are quite prevalent. Studies have found that around 35% of patients experience muscle tension along with headaches after taking the medication.(4)

Modafinil headaches might also occur due to the over-activation of nerves controlling a muscle. This over-activation of nerves can result in muscle tension. This condition can worsen due to bad posture, prolonged sitting, and loss of appetite.

How To Prevent Modafinil Headaches and Other Side Effects?

Below are some ways you can lower or prevent modafinil headaches and risks of other side effects caused due to the intake of modafinil.

  1. Maintaining Proper Hydration

One of the most prevalent adverse effects of modafinil or the ‘smart drug” is dehydration, and this can be a substantial cause of headache discomfort of itself.(5)

Our brain would contract or shrink when the body is dehydrated due to the lack of fluid. The brain pulls away from the skull because of this process and this creates discomfort and a dehydration headache.

When you drink enough water and rehydrated, your brain plumps up and returns to its natural condition, and this in turn, relieves the headaches. So, being hydrated is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent or treat modafinil headaches.

If you are taking 100 milligrams of Modafinil, it is suggested to drink at least two liters of water throughout the day.

  1. Having Proper Sleep

Modafinil drugs stimulate the brain to enhance wakefulness and alertness, and thus while you are taking this smart drug, you should get adequate sleep. You can try sleep time meditation which would help you have proper sleep.

  1. Following the Correct Dosage of the Medication

One of the most important things to follow to prevent the adverse effects of smart drugs is to follow the correct dosage of modafinil. A standard starting dose of this medication is 200 m. if you take an overdose of modafinil, you might experience headaches and other side effects.(6)

  1. By not Mixing Modafinil with Other Drugs

Modafinil doses must not be taken with other stimulants or medications. You would get headaches when you intake modafinil along with stimulants like caffeine.(7)

If you are already on a stimulating medication, consult with your doctor about the possible side effects or interactions. 

  1. Ripping Benefits from Anxiety Medication

Anxiety is one of the significant side effects of Modafinil. Suffering from anxiety can worsen your condition of modafinil headache.(8) So, trying anti-anxiety medicines and treatment techniques like meditation, can help manage modafinil headaches.

Final Thoughts

A modafinil headache is a quite common side effect experienced by people taking modafinil or the “smart drugs”. Many individuals experience severe headaches along with other adverse effects of these smart drugs. However, appropriate preventive measures and prompt treatments can help you stay away from these modafinil headaches and other side effects.

Talk to your doctor to know about the best options for preventing modafinil headaches and living healthy and fit lives.


  1. CM;, KJ McClellan; Spencer “A Review of Modafinil’s Pharmacology and Clinical Efficacy in the Treatment of Narcolepsy.” CNS medications National Library of Medicine, United States. The date was March 4, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27521015/
  2. label (fda.gov)
  3. Peroutka SJ. Migraine: a chronic sympathetic nervous system disorder. Headache. 2004 Jan;44(1):53-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2004.04011.x. PMID: 14979884.
  4. Hashemian SM, Farhadi T. A review on modafinil: the characteristics, function, and use in critical care. J Drug Assess. 2020 Apr 4;9(1):82-86. doi: 10.1080/21556660.2020.1745209. PMID: 32341841; PMCID: PMC7170336.
  5. Glutamate and Its Receptors as Migraine Therapeutic Targets, Hoffmann J, Charles A. doi:10.1007/s13311-018-0616-5. Neurotherapeutics. 2018;15(2):361370.
  6. Spiller HA, Hays HL, Aleguas A Jr. Overdose of drugs for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: clinical presentation, mechanisms of toxicity, and management. CNS Drugs. 2013 Jul;27(7):531-43. doi: 10.1007/s40263-013-0084-8. PMID: 23757186.
  7. University of Vermont. (2009, May 4). Caffeine Withdrawal Headache Explained: Your Brain On — And Off — Caffeine. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2023 from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090501162805.htmwww.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090501162805.htm
  8. Song TJ, Cho SJ, Kim WJ, Yang KI, Yun CH, Chu MK. Anxiety and depression in probable migraine: A population-based study. Cephalalgia. 2017 Aug;37(9):845-854. doi: 10.1177/0333102416653235. Epub 2016 Jun 1. PMID: 27250234.
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 24, 2023

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