A woman with a rare sleeping disorder called Kleine-Levin or “Sleeping Beauty” Syndrome can spend weeks of her life sleeping up to 22 hours each day. 21-year-old Rhoda Rodriguez-Diaz suffers from episodes where she gets extremely tired, causing her to sleep almost continuously for up to three weeks straight, except for briefly waking up to use the bathroom and to eat.
She described this unusual disorder by saying, “Life goes on whilst I’m sleeping. Reality hits me when I wake up and realize I’ve missed like a week of my life.” She said that it’s like a major setback in her life when it happens, “I miss out on so much. That’s the hardest part of it.”
Her disorder caused her to miss her exams and she ended up having to drop out of the courses she was taking last year, but she has re-enrolled hoping that this time may be different. “It’s hard to explain to people where I have been,” she said, “Because it’s so rare a lot of people struggle to understand. It’s really annoying when people call me lazy.”
Even though there isn’t any known cure to the sleep disorder, some people who have suffered from it eventually grew out of it. Rhoda says she’s now more aware of the disorder and can tell when she’s about to have an episode, “It used to feel like I was in a dream. It’s such a surreal feeling. It feels like you’re not really there. This is just a hiccup in my life and I am just waiting until it fades out. I want to be taken serious in life and this isn’t helping.”
So what exactly is Kleine-Levin Syndrome? It’s a neurological disorder that causes recurring periods of excessive amounts of sleep, changes in behavior, and a limited understanding of the world around them. While it normally affects adolescents, younger children and adults can also suffer from it. People with this disorder can suffer from it for ten years or even longer.
In addition to the person sleeping for excessive amounts of time, their demeanor can also appear to be “spacey” or childlike. When the person is awake, he or she can be disoriented, confused, have no energy, show very little emotion, and they can be very sensitive to noise and light. While some patients can go for weeks, months, or years without an episode, the symptoms can reappear with hardly any warning. What causes Kleine-Levin Syndrome is not yet known.