Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that notably involves excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden sleep attacks. A critical component in understanding narcolepsy is the neuropeptide called orexin (also known as hypocretin), which is significantly deficient in individuals with this condition. Orexin is involved in regulating wakefulness and feeding behaviors. Patients with narcolepsy experience a substantial deficit in orexin and its receptors, impacting their ability to stay awake during desired times 1.

To address the disturbances in wakefulness seen in narcolepsy, drugs designed to treat this condition, such as modafinil and armodafinil, are used. These drugs are weak dopamine reuptake inhibitors but also act on the orexin system to promote wakefulness. Modafinil and armodafinil have gained popularity not only in the treatment of narcolepsy but also among communities where prolonged alertness is required, such as in the military and among first responders 2.

These discussions about narcolepsy and its treatment highlight the key role of orexin in maintaining proper wake and sleep cycles and the targeted approaches in managing the condition through pharmaceuticals that regulate this pathway.

Orexin and Sleep

Matthew explains how orexin, a crucial brain chemical, affects wakefulness and feeding behaviors. The deficiency of orexin in narcoleptic patients sheds light on the connection between orexin and sleep disorders like insomnia.

Huberman Lab

Dr. Matthew Walker: Protocols to Improve Your Sleep | Huberman Lab Guest Series