If you have a sleep disorder, certain medications can help you feel more awake. Nuvigil and Provigil are prescription drugs used to improve wakefulness in adults with diagnosed sleep problems. These drugs do not cure these sleep disorders, nor do they take the place of getting enough sleep.

Nuvigil and Provigil are very similar drugs with few differences. This article compares them to help you decide if one drug might be better for you.

Nuvigil (armodafinil) and Provigil (modafinil) boost brain activity to stimulate certain brain areas that are involved in wakefulness. The sleep disorders these drugs can help treat include narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and shift work disorder (SWD).

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep problem that causes overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) causes your throat muscles to relax during sleep, blocking your airway. It causes your breathing to stop and start while you sleep, which can keep you from sleeping well. This leads to daytime sleepiness. Shift work disorder (SWD) affects people who often rotate shifts or who work at night. These schedules can lead to difficulty sleeping or feeling very sleepy when you’re supposed to be awake.

Nuvigil and Provigil are only available with a prescription from your doctor. The following table lists key features of these drugs.

Brand name Nuvigil Provigil
What is the generic name?armodafinilmodafinil
Is a generic version available?yesyes
What is this drug used for?improve wakefulness in people with narcolepsy, OSA, or SWDimprove wakefulness in people with narcolepsy, OSA, or SWD
What form does this drug come in?oral tabletoral tablet
What strengths does this drug come in?50 mg, 150 mg, 200 mg, 250 mg100 mg, 200 mg
What is the half-life for this drug?about 15 hoursabout 15 hours
What is the typical length of treatment?long-term treatmentlong-term treatment
How do I store this drug?at room temperature between 68°F and 77°F (20°C and 25°C)at room temperature between 68°F and 77°F (20°C and 25°C)
Is this a controlled substance*?yesyes
Is there a risk of withdrawal with this drug?nono
Does this drug have potential for misuse?yes¥yes¥
* A controlled substance is a drug that is regulated by the government. If you take a controlled substance, your doctor must closely supervise your use of the drug. Never give a controlled substance to anyone else.
¥ This drug has some misuse potential. This means you could become addicted to it. Be sure to take this drug exactly as your doctor tells you to. If you have questions or concerns, talk with your doctor.

Q:

What does the half-life of a drug mean?

A:

The half-life of a drug is the length of time it takes for your body to clear half of the drug from your system. This is important because it indicates how much active drug is in your body at a given time. The drug manufacturer considers the half-life of a drug when making dosage recommendations. For instance, they may suggest that a drug with a long half-life should be given once daily. On the other hand, they may suggest that a drug with a short half-life drug should be given two or three times daily.

Healthline Medical TeamAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

The dosage for the two drugs is also similar. The table below lists the typical dosage for each drug by condition.

ConditionNuvigil Provigil
OSA or narcolepsy150–250 mg once daily in the morning200 mg once daily in the morning
Shift work disorder150 mg taken once daily about one hour before work shift200 mg taken once daily about one hour before work shift

Both Nuvigil and Provigil are brand-name medications. They’re also available as generic drugs. Generic forms of drugs have the same active ingredient as the brand-name versions, but they cost less in most cases. At the time this article was written, brand-name Provigil was more expensive than brand-name Nuvigil. For the most current pricing, however, you can check GoodRx.com.

Both drugs are available in most pharmacies. You may need prior authorization for your health insurance to cover all forms of these drugs. Generic drugs are covered by insurance plans at lower out-of-pocket costs than brand-name versions. Insurance companies may have a preferred drug list where one generic is preferred over others. Non-preferred medications will cost you more out of pocket than preferred medications.

The side effects of Nuvigil and Provigil are very similar. The charts below list examples of side effects of both drugs.

Common side effectsNuvigil Provigil
headache XX
nauseaXX
dizzinessXX
trouble sleepingXX
diarrheaXX
anxietyXX
back pain X
stuffy nose X
Serious side effectsNuvigil Provigil
serious rash or allergic reactionXX
depressionXX
hallucinations*XX
thoughts of suicideXX
mania**XX
chest pain XX
trouble breathingXX
*hearing, seeing, feeling, or sensing things that are not really there
** an increase in activity and talking

Nuvigil and Provigil may both interact with other drugs you’re taking. Interactions can make your drugs less effective or cause more side effects. Your doctor may increase or decrease your dosage of these drugs to avoid interactions. Examples of drugs that could interact with Nuvigil or Provigil include:

  • birth control pills
  • cyclosporine
  • midazolam
  • triazolam
  • phenytoin
  • diazepam
  • propranolol
  • omeprazole
  • clomipramine

Nuvigil and Provigil can cause problems if you take them when you have certain health problems. Both medications have similar warnings. Examples of conditions that you should discuss with your doctor before taking Nuvigil or Provigil include:

  • liver problems
  • kidney problems
  • heart issues
  • high blood pressure
  • mental health conditions

Nuvigil and Provigil are very similar drugs. The biggest differences between them may be the strengths they come in and their costs. If you have more questions about Nuvigil, Provigil, or other drugs, talk with your doctor. Working together, you can find a medication that’s right for you.

Read more: Tips and information for sleep and wakefulness »