You may want to avoid sleep or stay awake for any number of reasons. People such as students, truck drivers, and other individuals may want to reduce their sleepiness because of their work shifts or since they want to finish up on projects or stay up doing research. Additionally, you could have a major exam coming up, and you would want to complete it in time. There are many ways to reduce your sleepiness and thereby stay awake for a longer time. One of these ways is by the use of medication. Drugs such as caffeine pills, Provigil and Ritalin help people stay awake. Below, we discuss each of these types of medication and show you which one is best suited towards your needs. As a responsible user of these kinds of drugs, you should be concerned about the drug’s terms of use. How many times you would have to use each drug, its efficacy, as well as the risks of addiction, should also be put into consideration. No one likes side effects either, so adverse effects the medication has should be explored. Knowledge is power. As such, we shall discuss in the timeline below the various drugs that can be used to stay awake. These drugs include:

  • Provigil
  • Ritalin
  • Caffeine
  • Adderall


Background Information on these drugs

  • Provigil, also commonly sold as Modalert, Modavigil or Alertec is a drug made from a chemical compound called Modafinil. Modafinil was developed in France in the 1990s. The drug was manufactured from adrafinil, which preceded it in use. However, recent times have had Modafinil as the more popular option amongst people everywhere. In 1998, Modafinil was granted FDA approval to treat narcolepsy. The drug also offers treatment for work shift sleep disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness. Modafinil is also used to improve cognitive function. That means it not only helps you stay awake but also ensures your brain is more proactive through the extended period past your usual sleep time. The drug also sprouts increases your focus and as such your overall mental alertness.
  • Ritalin is the brand name for a chemical substance called methylphenidate. The drug was licensed in 1955. However, its use by the general public began as from 1960. Ritalin has been shown to have an effect on working memory, episodic memory, and inhibitory control. It increases overall mental alertness. However, results are not as intense or compelling as those of other drugs. This means you might still find yourself suffering from mild sleepiness even after taking this medication. Also, its slight improvements mean you could get frustrated from spending your money on a product whose efficacy is not very high. Methylphenidate is sold under other brand names including Concerta, Aptensio, Biphentin, Daytrana, Equasym, Medikinet, Metadate, Methylin, QuilliChew, and Quillivant.
  • Caffeine is a methylxanthine stimulant for the Central Nervous System (CNS). It is the world’s most used psychoactive drug and is legal and unregulated throughout nearly the whole world. Its most common source is coffee beans and other drinks containing caffeine are coffee, tea, and cola. Caffeine, apart from being found in your usual cup of coffee, is also found in a variety of other sources. One of these sources is in its pure state in the form of pills or caffeine-rich supplements.
  • Adderall is a drug that is essentially used by mixing it with amphetamines. In this way, the user can experience the psychostimulant effects of the drug. Adderall was approved in 1996 to treat Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, it has also been associated with increased wakefulness which means it could help you stay up for long amounts of time. Additionally, the use of this drug ensures you can have better focus and motivation for tasks. Its generic version was first sold in the markets in 2002. From then, it has been marketed as either Adderall or Adderall XR.


How Do These Drugs work to reduce sleepiness?


This drug acts as a selectively weak dopamine reuptake inhibitor. This means that modafinil blocks the action of the dopamine transporter known as DAT. As a result, extracellular dopamine is not absorbed into the postsynaptic neuron. This causes an increase in the concentration of extracellular level. As such, more dopaminergic transmission can be achieved. Dopamine causes your body to become more proactive. As a result, you can stay awake for longer and have better overall mental capabilities while doing this. However, it has been noted that several other mechanisms are involved in the action of this drug in the body.


Caffeine travels to your brain and blocks the action of adenosine on its receptor. The blockage prevents adenosine from inducing drowsiness in an individual. As such, you can be more mentally alert in your activities. The stimulation thus results in increased wakefulness. Additionally, it causes better focus and an increase in body coordination. However, these results disappear as soon as the amount of caffeine in your system reduces. The bad news is that caffeine levels could lower quite quickly.


This drug blocks the dopamine transporter and norepinephrine transporter. As a result, there are increased concentrations of dopamine and norepinephrine within the synaptic cleft. This effect, in turn, leads to increased neurotransmission of dopamine and norepinephrine, which increases mental alertness and helps you stay awake.


Adderall increases the activity of the neurotransmitters in the brain. These include norepinephrine and dopamine. The desired effect stems from which results from their interactions with trace amine-associated receptor 1 (TAAR1) and vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) in neurons. Dextroamphetamine stimulates the Central Nervous System, which leads to increased wakefulness in individuals. As such, you feel more active, and your sleepiness is reduced.

Who Have Used These Drugs for Their Effects Before?

Provigil. As the name suggests, this drug increases vigilance. The drug has been utilized by the following people for its sleep-reducing effects as well as to increase overall mental activity.

a) In the Military – Modafinil has been used during times of war or in various missions. Troops have used Provigil to prevent sleepiness since, during war, the soldiers require to have high degrees of mental alertness. Further, the drug has been employed in lengthy missions where getting enough sleep could lead to the danger of being tracked down or ambushed. In France, the government endorsed Provigil’s use in its flanks. From this policy, the Foreign Legion used the drug during covert operations. Members of the Indian Air Force have also confirmed that Provigil’s use is part of their contingency plans.

The United States military approved Provigil’s use for some Air Force missions. Further, modafinil was the only drug to get approval from the United States Airforce as a “go pill.” Its uses ranged from reducing fatigue during various operations as well as to increase mental alertness.

b) Astronauts – At the International Space Station, members of space exploration teams are sent to outer space for various missions. The missions could be very taxing and as such cause fatigue. Due to the limited time space crews have to conduct their exploits, they use modafinil to stay awake for longer so as to perform more efficient missions. According to the Canadian Medical Association, astronauts who take Modafinil have their sleepiness reduced, and their mental capabilities heightened. Additionally, using this drug ensures that the quality of sleep the space crew experience is better.

Caffeine’s stimulating effect is widely used in the world today. Most members of the working class in the United States have coffee in the morning for its stimulation. However, the effects are not as intense as those of modafinil. Additionally, none of the government’s agencies depend exclusively on caffeine to reduce sleepiness.

Adderall and Ritalin have no official authorities that endorse their use in promoting wakefulness. In as much as the effect is present and the drugs are FDA approved, these drugs have a wider market for other purposes such as ADHD treatment and are not specifically attributed to staying awake.

Side Effects of These Drugs


Very few side effects have been recorded from the use of this drug. The long-term effects of Modafinil have not been precisely measured. However, medical practitioners and patients across the board have spoken positively on modafinil use, citing little to no side effects.

In clinical trials by Teva Pharmaceuticals, one-third of participants reported experiencing headaches. 11 percent of the participants reported nausea and less than 10 percent of participants reporting other harmful side effects. The results ranged from nervousness, diarrhea, insomnia, anxiety and dizziness to gastrointestinal problems. In more severe cases, Provigil’s use was related to severe skin rashes and other allergy-related side effects. It should be noted that only six cases of severe reactions from Provigil have been reported since the beginning of its marketing in the United States up to 2007.

Recently, severe cases have been at the minimum.


The consumption of caffeine has led to the following adverse effects on individuals:

  • High blood pressure, vasoconstriction, and arterial stiffness. Further, caffeine can interfere with movements of food within the digestive system and affect the production of gastric juice. This could lead to indigestion. The use of caffeine has also been associated with the acceleration of bone loss. In asthmatics, the use of caffeine can cause weak bronchodilation for up to four hours. This drug also increases urinary output which could lead to dehydration.
  • Psychologically, the drug has induced jitteriness, anxiety, insomnia and a slight reduction in co-ordination. At high doses, this drug can both cause and worsen anxiety.



Methylphenidate has been known to cause the following adverse effects:

  • Appetite loss, dry mouth, anxiety, nausea, abdominal pain, weight loss, blurred vision, chest pain and hyperhidrosis. Ritalin can also cause palpitations and changes in blood pressure. Hypersensitivity has also been recorded as a side effect of both Ritalin and Concerta.
  • Psychologically, Ritalin has been known to cause emotional instability, confusion, and depression.


This drug has some of the most varied side effects. They include:

Physical Effects

  • Hypertension or hypertension.
  • Sexual side effects in males may include erectile dysfunction, frequent or prolonged erections.
  • Abdominally, side effects could include nausea, weight loss, abdominal pain and a loss of appetite.
  • Nosebleeds
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Excessive grinding of teeth
  • Drug-induced nasal congestion
  • Reduced seizure threshold
  • A movement disorder called tics could also occur.

Psychologically, Adderall has been known to cause the following:

  • Apprehension
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia.
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Sudden changes in libido.

Additionally, Adderall’s use could cause changes in mental state, personality changes, delusions, and paranoia. In heavier users, conditioned placed preference has been observed. This effect has primarily been seen in individuals who use Adderall therapeutically. These people like spending time in places they had previously taken Adderall doses.

Cases of Overdose


The FDA is not informed of any deaths from the exclusive overuse of modafinil. To confirm this information, clinical trials have been conducted that had increased doses of modafinil given to participants. During the tests, participants took modafinil doses of up to 1200mg per day for 21 days. The known occurrences of one-time 4500mg did not appear to cause life-threatening effects. However, adverse effects were observed. These included palpitations, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, confusion, nervousness, and nausea.

Caffeine has had recorded overdose cases. These led to the deaths of individuals through convulsions.

Adderall’s overdose has caused the death of many people. Additionally, individuals who have not died from Adderall’s overdose have experienced the following side effects:

  • Cardiogenic shock
  • Cerebral hemorrhage
  • Circulatory system collapse
  • Acute amphetamine psychosis
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Excessive adrenergic nerve activity.

An overdose from the use of Ritalin could lead to any of the following effects:

  • Hyperthermia, sweating, flushing, headache, tachycardia, heart palpitations, cardiac arrhythmias, and hypertension. Additionally, individuals could suffer from vomiting, agitation, tremors, hyperreflexia, muscle twitching, euphoria, confusion, and hallucinations. An overdose of Ritalin can also lead to circulatory collapse which would consequently cause death.

Addiction Potential of these Drugs

Provigil has been classified by the FDA as a Schedule IV controlled drug. This is because modafinil has very low levels of euphoria stemming from its use, which means getting addicted to using this drug is significantly difficult. Also, it gives weak reinforcement when used over time.

Caffeine, Adderall, and Ritalin are all known addictive substances. They reinforce the use of these substances on the body and have a broad range of withdrawal symptoms in case one stops using them. Adderall, specifically, is a schedule II controlled drug. This means Adderall has a very high potential for abuse and as such, is easily addictive.

Summary and Conclusion

Looking at the table below clearly outlines the differences between these drugs used to reduce sleepiness.


Area of Difference Provigil Other Drugs that Reduce Sleepiness
Efficacy Modafinil’s mechanism of action is very efficient. Additionally, one stays awake for longer hours using this drug. These drugs have short-lived spouts of wakefulness.

The degree of wakefulness experienced using these drugs is also significantly lower

Addiction This drug is not likely to be abused. It has very low dependency and addictive levels. These drugs are likely to be abused with time. Risks are high stemming from strong reinforcement.
Side Effects Modafinil has been shown to have very few side effects These drugs have varied adverse effects which could lead other diseases in the future
Withdrawal Withdrawal symptoms are at a minimum. Further, any withdrawal symptoms experienced would end in one month. Excessive withdrawal symptoms which could limit the user for weeks to months after ceasing these drugs’use
Cases of overdose No documented case of a fatal overdose due to purely modafinil’s overuse Fatal incidents from the overdose of other study drugs have been recorded.


From this table, it is very clear that modafinil is the superior drug to use so as to reduce your sleepiness. You will stay awake for longer and perform even better in your tasks.