Abnormalities of the dopaminergic system are thought to be part of the underlying aetiology of this disorder, therefore tyrosine is used on the theoretical basis that an increase in dopamine levels will produce an improvement (Roufs 1990).

A randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled study of L-tyrosine (9 g/day for 4 weeks) has been conducted in 10 subjects with narcolepsy and cataplexy that tests this theory. While receiving tyrosine, subjects reported feeling less tired, less drowsy and more alert; however, ratings of daytime drowsiness, cataplexy, sleep paralysis, night-time sleep, overall clinical response, and measurements of multiple sleep latency and tests of speed and attention did not detect a significant difference with placebo (Elwes etal 1989). An earlier trial of longer duration, however, reported that within 6 months all eight participants were free from daytime sleep attacks and cataplexy (Mouret et al 1988b).

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