Provigil Survey Finds Strong Support From Myotonic Dystrophy Patients

For quite a few years, I have been strongly advocating the use of Provigil the brand name for modafinil for helping with sleep related issues n Myotonic Dystrophy. Many patients with myotonic dystrophy have tremendous issues with excessive sleep and sleep disruptions.  A study from France in 2009 concluded that a controlled study showed “no significant effects on daytime sleepiness” This study puzzled me as many patients reported very good results from this drug.

A survey conducted by the Myotonic Dystrophy Support Group,  MDSG in England has concluded that over 80% of survey respondents found that the drug had a marked benefit or a dramatic benefit. This concurs with the informal feedback that I have had here in the USA. This also focuses attention on patient centered approaches versus medical centered approaches. Patient centered approaches are very important to give direct patient feedback rather than just visibility to medical professionals opinions based on limited patient facts.

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Daytime Sleepiness in Myotonic Dystrophy Causes

This is a study (1994)  that looked at the causes of sleepiness in patients with myotonic dystrophy. They concluded that these sleep issues are not caused by sleep apnea. A number of the patients were able to get some relief with Ritalin. Ritalin has a low amount of cardiac side effects. However, this drug may have some cardiac side effects so clear it with your doctor cardiologist before use

Daytime Sleepiness is not caused by Sleep Apnea

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1994 May;57(5):626-8.

Daytime sleep in myotonic dystrophy is not caused by sleep apnoea.


Department of Neurology, University Hospital Rotterdam-Dijkzigt, The Netherlands.


Daytime sleepiness is common in myotonic dystrophy and might be attributed to disturbed nocturnal breathing. Seventeen out of 22 patients complained of excessive daytime sleepiness, resembling “idiopathic hypersomnolence”. Sleep apnoea might have contributed to daytime sleepiness in only three of 17 patients. Treatment with the central stimulant methylphenidate produced sustained benefit in seven out of 11 patients tested. Daytime sleepiness in myotonic dystrophy is usually caused by dysfunction of central sleep regulation and not by disturbed nocturnal breathing.

Ritalin and Daytime Sleepiness in Myotonic Dystrophy

Sleepiness is a  issue with some adults and children with Myotonic Dystrophy. Sleepiness or Hypersomnia can have great impact on the social life of patients with myotonic dystrophy. Some patients have reported relief with Provigil although studies have indicated that there is no overall benefit. Provigil may work to help mobilize the sleep patterns so that a person can attend an event but then catch up on sleep later. A new study is looking at a different drug.

This study is by one of the worlds experts in the Disease (DM1) Dr. Puymirat in Quebec, Canada. This article  studies Dr. J PuyrimatRitalin (20mg) and Myotonic dystrophy related to sleepiness with some good results. However, it is noted that palpitations are a side effect of the study. The risks with Ritalin are low but make sure to see a cardiologist before using or having Ritalin prescribed.

Clin Ther. 2012 May;34(5):1103-11.