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Patients with myotonic dystrophy frequently suffer from excess daytime sleepiness, which can be a significant cause of disability. Previous studies have indicated that this excess daytime sleepiness is only occasionally due to obstructive sleep apnoea and may be principally of central nervous system origin. Modafinil has been successfully used to treat narcolepsy, a central disorder causing excess daytime sleepiness. We have investigated the use of this drug in myotonic dystrophy patients with excess daytime sleepiness. Patients were recruited from a clinic population on the basis of screening with the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. Patients scoring 10 and above were invited to participate in a randomized double-blind crossover trial of modafinil versus placebo, with four weeks in each arm of the study separated by a 2-week washout period. Patients were assessed by polysomnography at baseline. The primary outcome measures were change in both the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and a modified Maintenance of Wakefulness Test, which were measured at the start of each arm of the trial and in week 3 of each intervention period. In agreement with previous smaller studies, sleepiness is not correlated with CTG expansion size. Treatment with modafinil showed a non-significant reduction in median Epworth Sleepiness Scale. However, the median Maintenance of Wakefulness Test score was prolonged by treatment (31.7-40 min, P=0.006). There were no significant adverse cardiac effects of the drug in this group of patients (resting 12 lead and 24 h ECG monitoring). Selected patients with myotonic dystrophy and excess daytime sleepiness may benefit from modafinil. In this patient group the Epworth Sleepiness Scale may not be the most reliable measure of sleepiness. Despite the potential for cardiac disease in these patients, the drug was well tolerated with no adverse effects.


Journal article


Neuromuscul Disord

Publication Date





357 - 364


Adult, Aged, Benzhydryl Compounds, Central Nervous System Stimulants, Cross-Over Studies, Disorders of Excessive Somnolence, Double-Blind Method, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Modafinil, Myotonic Dystrophy, Neuropsychological Tests, Polysomnography, Surveys and Questionnaires, Treatment Outcome