How to Handle a Modafinil Headache

A Modafinil headache is one of the most common side effects of the Limitless drug. As much as half of Modafinil users experience it, and it can be a frustrating issue. If the pain is interfering with productivity, then the side effect negates the whole point of taking Modafinil.

It is no surprise that most Nootropic enthusiasts have developed their own set of tricks and strategies to combat the headache. Sadly, these are a lot like the anecdotal hangover remedies – some are based on science and evidence, others are physiologically useless but helped someone through the placebo effect.

In this article, we are looking at the way a Modafinil headache works and what could actually help you prevent or alleviate it.

What Is A Modafinil Headache?

First off, what are headaches? Pain in your head, period. We tend to associate them with the brain when a headache can be caused by anything on and around the head — dental problems, muscle stiffness in the neck, sinus congestion etc.

Headaches can be either primary or secondary. A primary headache is not a symptom, it could be a disease in itself. An example of a primary headache is migraines or tension headaches caused by stress. Secondary headaches are merely symptoms. You can alleviate the headache but it will not go away unless you remove the underlying problem.

Modafinil headaches are primary. Much like migraines, though, they are still poorly understood. Because we are not sure about their mechanism, we can’t give a one size fits all solution. Although, on second thoughts, one size fits all does not exist—even in diseases we completely understand.

All We Have Are Theories

Not only do we not understand the workings of a Modafinil headache, we are not so sure about Modafinil’s mechanism of action either. The two are interlinked. Obviously, Modafinil does something in your brain and that something can mess up other somethings (as in processes). A headache appears.

Still, we have some clues about Modafinil and it’s side effects.

modafinil headache

Inflammation and Modafinil Headaches

One very promising lead comes from the histamines. Histamines are chemicals which cause inflammation. They are also associated with allergies and so the drugs for allergies are antihistamines. What kind of chemicals would histamines be? Neurotransmitters. They help your brain cells talk.

It has been theorised that Modafinil works by increasing histamine levels. This helps you stay awake and alert but it could also cause inflammation in your brain. There are 5 key elements of inflammation and pain is one of them. Increased inflammation in your brain = headache.

The compelling proof for this theory is that Modafinil has significantly different side effects from amphetamines (Adderall). Amphetamines and other similar stimulants increase your dopamine levels to keep you up and working. Modafinil also increases dopamine along with other neurotransmitters (like histamines).

If Modafinil was a typical stimulant you would expect it to act like one. But it does not. This might suggest that histamines account for most of Modafinil’s effects.

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Reducing Inflammation

Inflammation, especially chronic inflammation, is a serious issue and it can cause some really scary diseases (type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease). When you are on a drug that might increase inflammation, it is common sense to take extra steps to decrease it. We will divide those into lifestyle changes and supplements.

Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle

People have spent their entire lives and careers studying the effects of chronic inflammation and the ways to prevent it. Articles like ‘5 Amazing Fruits That Reduce Inflammation and Prevent Cancer’ make it seem oh so easy. You can still be chronically inflamed, even if you stuff your face with blueberries every day.

But we know for sure, some things increase inflammation. Instead of focusing on super-foods, try avoiding the big inflammation factors first. Those are:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Chronic stress
  • Obesity
  • Problems with your gut bacteria

As you can see, these are hardly ground-breaking. Yet we all allow them into our lifestyle. If you improve your eating and exercise habits and you give up cigarettes and alcohol, you will be healthier. One of the ways to be more healthy is becoming less inflamed. This way a slight inflammation caused by Modafinil will not lead to a Modafinil headache.

As for the gut bacteria, you probably know it — stick to foods with probiotics and don’t abuse antibiotics. Exercise reduces stress (and it can help with obesity) so you have those boxes checked as well.

The anti-inflammatory lifestyle is not just for when you are taking Modafinil, of course. It just becomes a bit more important when you are on the drug. Over time it will reduce not just the Modafinil headache but other side effects as well.

Healthy people (usually) get less side effects. If you could use this as an opportunity to forge healthy habits — even better!

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modafinil headache


Supplements are something you can add when you need the extra boost. They might not be super necessary for everyday life but consider them with Modafinil. They can alleviate side effects and even improve Modafinil’s action.

The major one here is choline. Choline is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Humans can’t produce choline and so they need to take it in with their food. The trouble is that there is not a whole lot of foods rich in choline. The best ones are animal-based (i.e. egg yolks) while plant-based choline sources are poorer and we are not so sure about absorption either.

In normal conditions, you get enough choline from food (at least you usually do). It is thought that Modafinil increases the amount of choline you need.

It is worth noting, that this is more typical of Piracetam and other Nootropics of it’s kind. Choline and Piracetam go together in the stacks of most users.

Guess why? To prevent headaches.

The idea is that Piracetam makes your brain cells fire up more. They produce more acetylcholine (the neurotransmitter) from choline. You need to intake more choline to compensate.

With Modafinil, things get a little more blurry…

Choline And The Modafinil Headache

Modafinil increases histamines, right? We know for sure that antihistamines harm cholinergic pathways. Come again? Antihistamines decrease the histamine. They also decrease the acetylcholine. This, in turn, can cause neurodegenerative disease down the line.

We are not so sure whether the reverse is also true. As in, does more histamine also mean more acetylcholine? It could be. In this case, Modafinil will indirectly deplete choline. The evidence here is that the Piracetam and the Modafinil headache are very similar. They are both dull, throbbing pain. Well, usually anyway.

It makes sense then to supplement choline when you are on Modafinil. I would say aim for your recommended daily intake and maybe build it up from there. Otherwise, you will simply be making your urine more expensive (choline is water-soluble).

Other Anti-Inflammatory Supplements

Antioxidants come to mind almost immediately. On top of eating more antioxidant-rich foods, try glutathione. This is your body’s most potent and most important antioxidant. It is also a relatively cheap and easy to get supplement — bodybuilders like it a lot.

Turmeric contains curcumin which can make inflammation enzymes less active. If you are not a fan of curry, curcumin also comes in supplement form and this way it is easier to take in more.

Omega-3’s are also worth mentioning. Not only are they anti-inflammatory but they are also incredibly important for heart and brain health. Supplementing Omega-3’s can have a Nootropic-like effect in itself. Combined with Modafinil it will make it more potent and it will prevent the side effects.

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modafinil headache

Could A Modafinil Headache Be Circumstantial?


So far we have looked into direct mechanisms that connect Modafinil and the headaches. But there could be a much simpler explanation. Think of how Modafinil makes you feel.




Also, it kind of turns you into a one track mind. You become 100% concentrated on the task that you have to accomplish. This is great for productivity, sure, but not so great for eating and hydration.

People forget to drink water even when they are not on Modafinil. Chances are you are dehydrated even right now. Add Modafinil to the equation and you easily forget to drink water. Dehydration causes the headache. This means that the Modafinil headache would be secondary.

Remove the cause, remove the pain. Make sure to stay hydrated all the time, and especially the day before you intend to use Modafinil. Keep a water bottle nearby. You can even get one of those hydration apps that remind you to drink water. Personally, I think this is a little overkill but you know how bad at prioritising you become when you are on Modafinil.

Nutrition is equally important. If you don’t eat for long enough you get a headache. Plan your meals (and meal times) before Modafinil and make sure to follow through.


There is nothing wrong with using painkillers to manage your Modafinil headache.

This is particularly relevant to people who are prone to headaches. If you get headaches even when you are not on Nootropics, Modafinil might make them worse. In this case (and all others where you feel like you need it) an aspirin can alleviate the symptom.

Painkillers are the short-term trick, changing your lifestyle and supplementing smartly will make you headache-free in the long run.

PS: High-quality Modafinil is key to avoiding headaches, too. Get the good stuff here.