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Modafinil can help your productivity skyrocket and ensure you’re focused and motivated all day long. But without knowing modafinil’s half-life, how long it takes to kick in and how to correctly take it, you likely won’t get the most out of it. Worse, you may mess up your sleep and any chance of being productive next day. I’ve been there before, and a fun time it is not.
What Is Modafinil?
Modafinil is a wakefulness-promoting agent that was initially designed for treating several sleep-related disorders. These include narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea or excessive sleepiness caused by shift work sleep disorder. Sufficient evidence also exists regarding Modafinil’s effectiveness in treating ADHD.
It was first synthesized in the late 1970’s along with other similar compounds like adrafinil (which happens to be a prodrug to modafinil). Modafinil has been prescribed in France since 1994 and in the United States since 1998, when the FDA first approved it for the treatment of narcolepsy.
In recent years, more and more people have been using modafinil as a nootropic. It noticeably increases alertness levels in healthy individuals. It has also been hyped up to be “the closest thing to the Limitless pill” (for those familiar with the 2011 movie or 2015 TV show Limitless).
Although it won’t give you superpowers, modafinil is very effective in increasing motivation, focus, memory, and productivity. Many people have substituted Adderall with modafinil because of similar benefits, lower addictive potential, and fewer side-effects.
Modafinil is also widely used by professionals in competitive industries such as finances or IT, with greater enthusiasm and motivation to get the job done commonly reported. Tedious tasks become easier to finish and tough projects easier to tackle thanks to better overall problem-solving skills.
How Does Modafinil Work?
Modafinil increases the production of certain excitatory neurotransmitters (glutamate, acetylcholine) and mixed neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine, histamine). It primarily targets the dopamine transporter. This action leads to increased concentrations of dopamine in the brain, which accounts for the increased motivation and mood lift.
Increased levels of norepinephrine (or noradrenaline) boost focus and wakefulness. High levels of norepinephrine also explain why modafinil may produce anxiety, especially when taken with other stimulants that also raise the production of this neurotransmitter.
Modafinil inhibits GABA production. GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain and is responsible for regulating sleep.
It also significantly influences histamine levels, which even further contributes to enhanced wakefulness.
For all the benefits modafinil brings, it’s side effects are minimal and can even be non-existent. Headaches usually occur due to insufficient water intake. Consuming caffeine or other stimulants at the same time may result in some anxiety. Depending on how late in the day modafinil is taken, it may also negatively affect sleep.
How Long Does Modafinil Take to Kick In?
There are two common ways of taking modafinil: orally and sublingually. I prefer sublingual administration since the effects come on almost immediately.
I usually take a slightly lower dosage of 50 mg (1/4 Modalert tablet) and keep it under my tongue for around 10 to 15 minutes. The taste can be somewhat foul, but definitely bearable. Coffee rinse does a great job of washing down what’s left.
In my experience, the effects of 50 mg taken sublingually are very similar to 100 mg swallowed. I also feel like getting a good night’s sleep is easier since the main effects wear off a little quicker.
When taken orally, the modafinil time to effect is from a half an hour to an hour. And you’ll definitely know when it kicks in. Your mental state shifts and becomes noticeably more aware, focused and adaptable to new stimuli. You’ll also get thirsty.
Modafinil Half Life
The term “half-life” is often misinterpreted, especially among users who aren’t familiar with chemistry terminology. The half life of a drug is the time it takes for the amount of the drug in the body to reach half its initial value.
Modafinil’s half-life is frequently reported at around 14 to 16 hours, but this time span is incorrectly defined. The 14 to 16 hours represent modafinil’s total duration (onset + peak + offset). It coincides with how long it generally takes for people to be able to fall asleep. OMICS International shows modafinil’s actual half-life to be around 8 hours.
Benefits of Modafinil Half-life
The 8-hour half-life of modafinil brings with it several benefits. Here are some of the more notable ones.
- A Whole Day of Productivity
One of the great things about modafinil’s long duration is its ability to create a motivated and focused mental state for a whole day from but a single dose. Modafinil’s peak effects last 8 hours. Whether you’re an employee, an entrepreneur or a student, that’s more than enough to keep you supported for a full day’s work.
- And a Night, Too!
Modafinil is an excellent tool for pulling off all-nighters and ideal if you have an exam early next day. Take a dose either in the night or at dawn, and you will be fully awake and alert well into the afternoon.
One thing I like to do when it comes to all-nighters is using modafinil after I have worked for a few hours. Taking it once my mind is already a bit tired completely refreshes me. I also end up a lot more productive from that point onwards because I was already “in the zone”.
- No Need to Redose
There are few other alternatives to modafinil which are as long-lasting as it. Adderall, for example, won’t get you through the day from just a single dose. You would need to take it two or three times to maintain peak performance and avoid crashing.
- Effects Wear off Gently
A common characteristic of stimulants used to enhance cognitive abilities or treat sleep-related disorders is the crash that comes at the end of the experience. With modafinil, this crash is next to non-existent.
Even though modafinil produces stimulating effects, its mechanism of action is different from traditional stimulants. I have even found it keeps some of its “magic” the following day.
Downsides of Modafinil Half-life
No smart drug (or any other drug for that matter) is perfect. The same is true of modafinil. Here are a few potential drawbacks which its long half life may cause.
- Trouble Sleeping at Night
This is one of the most common side-effects reported by modafinil users, myself including. If you take it in the afternoon, it’s going to be very difficult to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. I had witnessed many sunrises as a result of a mistimed modafinil dose when I first started using it (though these days I know how to manage it pretty well).
- Disturbed Sleep
Again, the sleep issue. Aside from the difficulty of falling asleep, I’ve experienced nights when I would regularly wake up. Sometimes I was thirsty, other times I wasn’t tired enough to properly fall asleep. Although this issue is rarer, I’ve heard many other users complain about modafinil lowering their quality of sleep as well.
Also, if tend to take modafinil in the afternoon, your sleep pattern may change even when you do not use it. The shift in your circadian rhythm comes as a consequence of repeatedly going to sleep in the early hours of the morning. I often use ashwagandha or Bacopa monnieri at night to relax and sleep better, though other herbs and supplements can help you there as well.
- Combining Alcohol on the Same Day
Although some people may like this effect, modafinil makes it difficult for you to feel drunk. This is true even when you consume alcohol several hours later in the day after taking modafinil. As a result, many people end up drinking too much, which leads to increased toxicity and extreme dehydration.
Finding the Ideal Modafinil Timing and Dosage
We all have our own unique brain chemistry. This means that the modafinil experience will differ from person to person. The ideal time to take modafinil and the perfect dose can be tricky to find, especially if you’re a beginner. What you want to get out of modafinil is also vitally important.
That said, regardless of if you’re going for a slight cognitive boost or a full-blown alertness, focus and motivation state, it’s best to start with low doses and work your way up.
Studies have shown that taking more than 200 mg of modafinil will only increase adverse side-effects and does not produce additional benefits.
Many users prefer taking modafinil on an empty stomach, though I wouldn’t recommend it. I find the ideal time to take it is about 30 minutes after eating. One reason for this is that eating dulls the effect of modafinil. I’m not one to waste a perfectly good smart drug dose so after taking modafinil, I try to put off eating for as long as I can. A full stomach helps.
The other reason I eat first is I’m pretty irritable on an empty stomach, and modafinil seems to amplify that. I also tend to get a little nauseous and dizzy taking modafinil without food, though that may just be me.
Most people say (and I tend to agree) that the ideal time to take modafinil is in the morning. Some users will claim that any time before 1 PM is fine. I think that’s getting late and may make it difficult going to sleep. Unless you have good reason to take it later, earlier is definitely better.
What It All Means
If you need a little focus, alertness or energy shot in the arm, few nootropics do it better than modafinil. And when you know where to get it, few nootropics also give you better bang for your buck. Figure out the dosage and timing that best work for you, couple that with a nutritious and filling meal beforehand, and you’ll be amazed just how much modafinil can help you accomplish.