Understanding ‘Sleeping Beauty Syndrome’

The medical name for Sleeping Beauty Syndrome is Kleine-Levin Syndrome (KLS). This rare and complex medical condition is categorised as a neurological disorder.

People with Sleeping Beauty Syndrome need excessive amounts of sleep (up to 20 hours a day), and suffer from behavioural changes and lack of comprehension of the world.

What causes KLS?

KLS tends to strike adolescents more than any other age group, and males more than females. It is not known what the exact causes are.

However, some experts believe that in certain cases, genetic factors may play a role.

They also believe this disorder develops when some portion of the brain meant to regulate sleep, appetite, and body temperature lacks the nutrition it requires to function optimally.

Meanwhile, other experts think KLS may be an autoimmune disorder.

How does KLS affect one’s life?

At the onset of an episode, patients with KLS become extremely drowsy, then sleep all day and night. They sometimes wake up to eat or visit the bathroom.

Each episode can last for days, weeks or even months. During this period, patients are unable to perform daily activities like going to work, attending school or taking care of themselves.

Upon awaking, patients are often in a confused state, disoriented, and suffer from hallucinations.

They may also feel lethargic and apathetic. Many also state they cannot stay focussed while others become hypersensitive to noise and light.

In certain cases, patients develop unexplained food cravings and compulsive hyperphagia which is the excessive intake of food.

At other times, they experience abnormally uninhibited sexual desire.

When the episode is over, patients with KLS get back to their normal routines, showing no problems with their behaviour or physical health.

Patients do not show any symptoms of the disorder when they are in between episodes. However, KLS episodes can reoccur later in life with little warning.

KLS episodes may recur for up to 10 years or more, stealing big chunks of one’s lifetime.

Do you have KLS?

There is no medical test to ascertain if one suffers from KLS. If you think you may have KLS, seek help from your doctor.

Below is the KLS symptom checker developed by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (2005).

Accordingly, an individual may suffer from KLS if they have symptom A, one or more of the features in B, and the patterns described in C.

A: Recurrent hypersomnia (from two to 31 days)

B: • Cognitive problems including unreality, confusion and hallucination.

• Behavioural changes including irritability, aggression and odd behaviour.

• Binge eating (overeating)

• Hypersexuality

C: Long periods of normal sleep, cognition, behaviour and mood.

This article first appeared in hellodoktor.com. It was reviewed by Dr Duyen Le. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.