Nuvigil as a Treatment for Sleep Disorders

A young woman who can't sleep at night
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Nuvigil is a prescription medication that promotes wakefulness and is used for the treatment of excessive daytime sleepiness caused by many sleep disorders, including narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and circadian rhythm disorders.


Nuvigil, which is also sold under the generic name armodafinil, is a medication prescribed to promote wakefulness. It is effective in treating excessive daytime sleepiness from many causes. Nuvigil may be helpful in treating excessive sleepiness from narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and circadian rhythm disorders (including advanced sleep phase syndrome, delayed sleep phase syndrome, and shift work sleep disorder).

Who Should Not Use Nuvigil?

There are certain conditions that may require you to exercise caution if you wish to use Nuvigil. If you have heart conditions, including left ventricular hypertrophy, mitral valve disease, unstable angina (chest pain), or a recent heart attack, you should be cautious when using Nuvigil. If you have a history of psychiatric illness such as depression, mania, psychosis, or substance abuse, you should carefully decide with your doctor whether Nuvigil is safe for you.

Individuals with severe liver or kidney disease should also be cautious. Finally, elderly patients may need to be careful when using Nuvigil.

Common Side Effects

As with any drug, there are some common side effects that may occur with the use of Nuvigil. Although it is unlikely that you would experience most of these side effects — and, indeed, you may not have any of them — some that commonly occur with Nuvigil use include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety
  • Palpitations
  • Stomach pain or upset
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Rash
  • Increased blood pressure

Potential Serious Reactions

There is the potential for serious reactions with the use of any drug, including Nuvigil. These are expected to occur more rarely. When using Nuvigil, these serious reactions may include:

  • Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction including difficulty breathing)
  • Angioedema (swelling)
  • Multi-organ hypersensitivity reaction
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome (a serious skin reaction)
  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis (a serious skin reaction)
  • Rash
  • Mania
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Dependency or abuse

Safety Precautions and Monitoring 

As noted above, there are certain individuals who should not use Nuvigil or should use it with caution. It should probably not be used by pregnant women as adverse effects have been seen in animal studies. It is not known whether it is safe for an infant if you take Nuvigil while breastfeeding. In addition, everyone who takes Nuvigil should undergo blood pressure monitoring.

If you experience any difficulties, you should be in close contact with your primary health provider.

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  • "Nuvigil." Epocrates Rx Pro. Version 3.4, 2010. Epocrates, Inc. San Mateo, California.