Antidepressants for the treatment of narcolepsy: A prospective study of 148 patients in northern China

J Clin Neurosci. 2019 May:63:27-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2019.02.014. Epub 2019 Mar 2.


Narcolepsy is a life-long neurological disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and cataplexy. At present, Sodium oxybate, modafinil, methylphenidate and other stimulants are recommended first-line therapies for narcolepsy but are difficult to obtain in China. One hundred forty-eight patients with narcolepsy were treated with antidepressants and administered the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) and the Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT) before and after treatment from August 2012 to August 2017. The subjects were followed for 1-6 years after treatment. Improvement in sleepiness, cataplexy, cataplexy-like episodes, and antidepressant side effects were assessed. There were significant differences in the mean sleep latency (MSL) and sleep onset rapid eye movement periods (SOREMPs) in MWT and ESS scores, cataplexy and cataplexy-like episodes before and after treatment (p < 0.01). Venlafaxine demonstrated significantly greater improvements in MSL in the MWT (p < 0.01). Early awakenings and dry mouth were the most common adverse effects.

Keywords: Antidepressants; ESS; MWT; Narcolepsy; Treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Modafinil / administration & dosage
  • Modafinil / adverse effects
  • Modafinil / therapeutic use*
  • Narcolepsy / drug therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Venlafaxine Hydrochloride / administration & dosage
  • Venlafaxine Hydrochloride / adverse effects
  • Venlafaxine Hydrochloride / therapeutic use*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Venlafaxine Hydrochloride
  • Modafinil