In a previous post, I talked about my fatigue and my diagnosis of sleep apnea. I mentioned that I’ve been prescribed modafinil, a wakefulness promoter that’s not really a stimulant, because using the CPAP machine every night did not restore my energy right away.
I’ve been taking my modafinil faithfully, and it helps a lot, but not enough to wean me off pretty high-dose caffeine—not yet. I seem to be slowly gaining energy, so I might be able to stop using this stuff eventually. In the meantime, though, it’s very helpful.
What Remedies Help with Fatigue and Brain Fog?
Never satisfied by half-measures, I investigated the possibility of other energizing compounds. (Not amphetamines, though. They’re fairly standard for post-apnea fatigue like mine, but … no.)
It turns out that pharmaceutical companies around the world have been working like crazy on this problem for decades, and there are a lot of things to try. Some are prescription drugs, but many are herbs, nutrients, or other compounds that are available over the counter. Many have been in use for 30-40 years already and have established track records (though sometimes mostly for other complaints than mine).
I’ve tried all the remedies listed below: D-ribose, adrafinil, rhodiola rosea, caffeine, extended-release caffeine, sulbutiamine, and L-theanine.
My new favorite supplement is D-Ribose, which seems to give me a significant physical boost. Unlike most supplements in powder form, D-Ribose dissolves in water and tastes fine.
Ribose is part of the mitochondrial powerhouse cycle, which I will not even pretend to explain, but it certainly bumped up my physical activity level, in spite of not being a stimulant.
I’ve tried both the powder from Bulk Supplements and the chewable tablets from Now Foods. The powder is much ore affordable, and since (unlike most other supplements I mention) the powder is pleasant-tasting rather than disgusting, you might as well try the powder first.
Read more about Ribose.
Adrafinil is similar to modafinil, and in fact was developed by the same company. Adrafinil is now available over the counter, while Modafinil is a prescription drug that costs an arm and a leg (hundreds of dollars a month!). I’ve purchased 300 mg adrafinil capsules from Absorb Health, directly from their Web site.
A lot of people who can’t afford modafinil use the more affordable adrafinil instead. It’s less concentrated than modafinil (for me, 300 mg of adrafinil is equivalent to 100 mg of modafinil and it doesn’t last quite as long). If you buy adrafinil in capsule form, it costs about $1 per pill, and a standard dose of 2-4 pills per day works out to $60-$120 per month. Buying it in powder form cuts the price in half, or more.
This is an herb that has some stimulating properties in addition to aiding recovery. Less jangly than high-dose caffeine. Rhodiola rosea is affordable and readily available at places like GNC. I use the Now Foods 500 mg Rhodiola rosea product, taking one on arising and one before lunch.
Read more about rhodiola rosea on examine.com.
Good Ol’ Caffeine
In my current state, I take a 200 mg immediate-action caffeine tablet three times per day. That’s just where I am right now. Caffeine tables give a reliable increase in my energy level and alertness 20-30 minutes after I take them.
When traveling, I prefer the old standby, Vivarin, since its waxy coating lets me swallow a pill dry. At other times, I prefer inexpensive caffeine tables. Of the low-cost caffeine tablets, I’ve found the Prolab brand to be completely reliable. Others can be oddly variable in effect, even from pill to pill in the same bottle.
The idea behind extended-release caffeine is to avoid that jangly caffeine jolt shortly after taking it. Instead, it’s supposed to give a smooth alertness. I liked the Met-Rx 200 mg capsules, which were very affordable. Sadly, they seem to have been discontinued. They claimed an eight-hour extended release. For me, they lasted 3-4 hours.
I’ve tried a couple of other brands, including Sundown Naturals sustained release caffeine, but they didn’t have any effect on me. Other people give this brand very high marks, though, so maybe it’ll work for you.
Sulbutiamine is a synthetic form of vitamin B1 that’s also helps keep you going. This is more exotic than Rhodiola rosea but is still available over the counter. I’ve purchased 200 mg sulbutiamine capsules from Amazon.com and from Absorb Health. I used to take four capsules per day. I tapered off after they seemed to lose their punch, and now only take sulbutiamine occasionally. I’ve started buying it in powder form, which is much cheaper.
This is an amino acid found in green tea, and it counteracts the over-stimulation that you get from caffeine alone, so you get a calmer pick-me-up. I’ve used 200 mg L-theanine capsules from Now Foods. Frankly, I don’t notice much effect from this.
Read the Wikipedia page on L-theanine.
Buying Supplements in Powder Form
This is something of a nuisance, since you have to measure your doses, and many supplements taste awful, but it reduces the price by a lot: 50% for adrafinil and 80% for sulbutiamine. That’s a pretty good incentive.