Does Wellbutrin help with narcolepsy? (+3 findings)

In this article, we will discuss whether Wellbutrin helps with narcolepsy or not, clinical trials and studies assessing Wellbutrin’s impact on narcolepsy, the mechanism of action of Wellbutrin in managing narcolepsy symptoms, and the medications that are used to treat narcolepsy.

Does Wellbutrin help with narcolepsy?

Yes, Wellbutrin can help with narcolepsy. Wellbutrin is the brand name for the atypical antidepressant bupropion, which is used to treat MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) and is thought to improve wakefulness and attention by increasing the brain’s norepinephrine and dopamine levels, which in turn lessens the symptoms of narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy is a lifelong condition characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, frequent awakenings, and hallucinations.

What does research suggest?

Numerous research studies and case reports have demonstrated the efficacy of bupropion (Wellbutrin) in treating the symptoms of narcolepsy. Examples of these case studies include:

A 58-year-old woman with narcolepsy-cataplexy syndrome participated in a clinical trial. Imipramine (tricyclic antidepressant) and modafinil (stimulant) were used to address her symptoms, but there was no improvement. She started off with 150 mg of bupropion and worked her way up to 300 mg per day.

The results showed that bupropion helped her narcolepsy symptoms. (1)

Another case study was a 16-year-old girl identified as having SI (sleep inertia), a psychological condition that causes temporary disorientation and a decline in behavior and mood after awakening. She was constantly late to school as a result of this.

She received treatment with long-acting bupropion extended-release (150 mg once daily at bedtime) and methylphenidate sustained release to be consumed an hour before bed.

The medication had an effect, and she woke up promptly. Consequently, it has been proved that bupropion is effective in treating narcolepsy symptoms and sleep problems.

Another case study involved a 29-year-old woman with idiopathic depression and SI who was being treated with Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine). She was prescribed bedtime bupropion-xl 150 mg, and responded positively to the medication right away, with benefits lasting for four months. (2)

Wellbutrin and Adderall are two different medications. They can be used together to overcome the symptoms of narcolepsy in certain individuals.

How does Wellbutrin manage narcolepsy symptoms?

Wellbutrin manages narcolepsy symptoms by increasing the brain’s norepinephrine and dopamine neurotransmitters.

Norepinephrine is a part of your sympathetic nervous system, which is part of your body’s fight-or-flight response and is released in acute stress situations. Its function is to increase your attention, alertness, and arousal. (3)

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is made in the brain. It functions as a reward center and affects a wide range of bodily processes, such as attention, mood, and memory. (4)

Both norepinephrine and dopamine are powerful neurotransmitters that control your brain states helping in reducing the symptoms of narcolepsy or excessive daytime sleepiness.

What treatment strategies are approved for narcolepsy?

There are both pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments that are used to treat narcolepsy.

Pharmacological treatment includes using Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulants such as modafinil, methylphenidate, amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, and Norepinephrine Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor (Wellbutrin).

  • Boosting wakefulness is the goal of stimulants such as modafinil and armodafinil.
  • Sodium oxybate and venlafaxine are used to reduce cataplexy attacks associated with narcolepsy.
  • Sodium oxybate is also approved to treat symptoms of sleep paralysis and hallucinations. (5)

Note that Wellbutrin can be used in combination with a CNS stimulant such as modafinil to improve the symptoms of narcolepsy in certain patients.

These medications were proven to improve the symptoms of narcolepsy in 65-85% of patients. (6)

Non-pharmacological treatment includes:

  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, by sleeping 7.5-8 hours each night. Good sleep hygiene is crucial in treating narcolepsy. (6)
  • Taking short naps during the day will help treat your narcolepsy symptoms.
  • Regular exercise will improve your sleep quality and give you more energy the next day. It should be done 4 to 5 hours before bed.
  • Avoid using nicotine and alcohol. They will make narcolepsy symptoms worse, particularly at night.


Wellbutrin can help in treating the symptoms of narcolepsy. Research studies and clinical trials proved that Wellbutrin in combination with a CNS stimulant showed better results in treating narcolepsy in certain individuals. Taking your medication and practising non-pharmacological techniques can certainly help improve your narcolepsy symptoms.

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Goksan B, Mercan S, Karamustafalioglu O. Bupropion is effective in depression in narcolepsy. International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice. 2005 Jan;9(4):289–91. Available from:


Schenck CH, Golden EC, Millman RP. Treatment of severe morning sleep inertia with bedtime long-acting bupropion and/or long-acting methylphenidate in a series of 4 patients. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2021 Apr;17(4):653–7. Available from:


Cleveland Clinic. Norepinephrine: What It Is, Function, Deficiency & Side Effects [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Available from:


Cleveland Clinic. Dopamine [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Available from:


Thorpy MJ. Recently Approved and Upcoming Treatments for Narcolepsy. CNS Drugs. 2020 Jan;34(1):9–27. Available from:


Narcolepsy Treatment & Management: Approach Considerations, Nonpharmacologic Measures, Pharmacologic Treatment. eMedicine [Internet]. 2023 Jun 13 [cited 2023 Oct 19]; Available from:

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