Modafinil Alternatives

What is Modafinil?

modafinil alternativesModafinil has received a lot of press recently. From Silicon Valley to college campuses, Modafinil is often regarded as a real-life version of the drug NZT-48 that Bradley Cooper’s character takes in the movie Limitless.

However, like the drug in Limitless, modafinil comes with its own set of drawbacks. Luckily, there are a few natural alternatives to modafinil that could give you the mental boost you need without the nasty side-effects.

Before looking at other options on the market, let’s examine the reasons someone may take modafinil.

The drug itself is approved by the FDA for narcolepsy, but has taken on another life and is treated like a supplement by many users. For non-narcoleptics, modafinil is used to increase alertness, hone focus, boost memory retention, and improve concentration.

Unpleasant Modafinil Side Effects

light sensativity - modafinil side effect
Light sensativity is a common Modafinil side effect. Try combining caffeine and theanine as an alternative instead.

Long and short-term modafinil users report a number of side effects that make the drug unappealing. One of the most commonly cited effects is sensitivity to light, both natural sunlight and normal indoor lights.

Modafinil Alternatives

  • Caffeine supplement. First and foremost, good old caffeine is a great alternative to modafinil. Caffeine taken in through coffee, tea, or caffeine supplements can help provide many of the benefits sought after with modafinil. Some of the nootropic benefits of caffeine supplements include increased alertness, focus, energy levels, and motivation.
  • L-theanine supplement. Another nootropic that is often combined with caffeine supplements is l-theanine. L-theanine adds another level to the benefits of caffeine by providing a smooth, calm edge to a caffeine buzz. Compared to modafinil, the combination of caffeine and l-theanine can give users the same sense of concentration and flow, but without light sensitivity or other harsh side-effects.
  • Gotu Kola. Used for thousands of years in eastern medicine, gotu kola has many benefits that range from topical wound treatment to greater mental clarity. As a nootropic, gotu kola is a non-stimulant supplement that increases mental function in animal studies. Interestingly, it’s also been shown to reduce anxiety and soften the “startle” reflex, which makes it a good candidate for calm, focused study or working sessions.
  • Country Mallow. Back on the stimulant side of the coin, country mallow is a plant whose seeds contain large amounts of ephedrine. Ephedrine is a stimulant that helps increase alertness and is used to treat narcolepsy. Individuals usually drink country mallow as a strong tea for its stimulant properties.
  • Proper nutrients. While they may not be as flashy as a prescription drug, adequate levels of essential nutrients can provide added mental benefits, especially in cases of a deficiency. Choline fuels the brain while magnesium and calcium can help ensure optimal nervous system functioning. CoQ-10, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B, C, D and E are also all recommended to ensure the body is at the top of its game.
  • Non-supplement alternatives. Aside from smart supplementation, proper diet, exercise, and sleep are always a great way to ensure proper mental function and high daytime energy levels. While these may not be the easiest to implement on a daily basis, especially for a busy business professional or student, they’re important to monitor as well.

Whether you’re currently taking modafinil and are having problems with light sensitivity or are planning to take modafinil, keep these alternatives in mind. You may be able to find a solution that doesn’t make you get funny looks for wearing sunglasses inside.


David Johnson is a freelancer with an avid interest in supplements that help relax, enhance mood, and provide cognitive enhancement. Most days he can be found researching innovative ways to bring his readers sounder sleep, better moods, and more.