Sleep Disorders Excessive Kleine Levin Syndrome

Kleine-Levin syndrome, or sleeping beauty syndrome, is a rare disorder that causes excessively long periods of sleep. During an episode of Kleine-Levin syndrome, the affected individual sleeps for up to 20 hours a day, only waking to eat and use the washroom.

Kleine-Levin syndrome’s alternative name, sleeping beauty syndrome, implies a disorder that affects young women. In fact, Kleine-Levin syndrome symptoms occur more often in young men. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2009) estimates that 70 percent of Kleine-Levin syndrome cases affect men.

Kleine-Levin syndrome symptom onset occurs most frequently between the ages of 15 and 25, according to the Southern Cross Healthcare Group (2009). Sleeping beauty syndrome is rare after age 40.

Kleine-Levin Syndrome Symptoms

Klein-Levin syndrome is cyclical. Symptoms develop suddenly, last for varying amounts of time, and then diminish. A flare-up of Kleine-Levin syndrome symptoms may last for days, weeks or even months. The period of time between sleeping beauty syndrome episodes varies from weeks to years.

Excessive sleep is the primary — but not only — symptom of sleeping beauty syndrome. Other Kleine-Levin syndrome symptoms include:

  • Compulsive overeating
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Hypersensitivity to light or noise
  • Impulsivity
  • Irritability
  • Lack of emotion
  • Lack of energy
  • Uninhibited sex drive.

Kleine-Levin syndrome symptoms vary from person to person, and not everyone affected by the disorder exhibits every symptom. People often have difficulty remembering events during a Kleine-Levin syndrome episode. When Kleine-Levin syndrome symptoms fade, people may experience depression, temporary euphoria or sleeplessness.

During episodes of Kleine-Levin syndrome symptoms, individuals cannot work, attend school, care for themselves or perform even simple tasks. Between episodes of Kleine-Levin syndrome the individual appears completely healthy.

What Causes Kleine-Levin Syndrome?

Very little is understood about Kleine-Levin syndrome. Ask a sleep specialist, “What is Kleine-Levin syndrome?” and the answer will be, by necessity, vague.

Experts believe that sleeping beauty syndrome is a neurological disorder. Problems in two areas of the brain may contribute to the disorder, according to The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2009). The thalamus and hypothalamus control sleep patterns, and also help regulate appetite. Problems in these areas may explain several Kleine-Levin syndrome symptoms, including excessive sleep and compulsive overeating. However, without further studies, the precise cause of Kleine-Levin syndrome remains a mystery.

Treatment for Kleine-Levin Syndrome

Stimulants can be used as treatments for Kleine-Levin syndrome, but while these drugs can help combat sleepiness, they may worsen irritability and do little to improve impaired thought processes.

Lithium and carbamazepine are sometimes used as treatments for Kleine-Levin syndrome symptoms. These two medications might prevent episodes of sleeping beauty syndrome in some people, but come with potential side effects.

Treatment for Kleine-Levin syndrome is not required for life. Sleeping beauty syndrome episodes gradually diminish over the course of a decade. During that time, the disorder robs people of significant portions of their lives. However, with further study, scientists hope to develop new treatments for Kleine-Levin syndrome.

Resources

KLS Foundation. (2009). What is Kleine-Levin syndrome? Retrieved August 26, 2010, from http://www.kleinelevin.com/kleine/levin/info/what_is_kleine_levin_syndrome.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2009). NINDS Kleine-Levin syndrome information page. Retrieved August 26, 2010, from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/kleine_levin/kleine_levin.htm.

Southern Cross Healthcare Group. (2009). Kleine-Levin syndrome. Retrieved August 26, 2010, from http://www.southerncross.co.nz/AboutTheGroup/HealthResources/MedicalLibrary
/tabid/178/vw/1/ItemID/147/Kleine-Levin-Syndrome.aspx.