Kleine-Levin Syndrome

Last updated: April 11, 2019

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.

What is Kleine-Levin Syndrome?

Kleine-Levin Syndrome (KLS) is a rare sleep disorder. This disorder is characterized by persistent episodic hypersomnia. A patient with KLS might also experience cognitive or behavioral changes.  When an individual has KLS, he may sleep for up to 20 hours per day during an episode. Because of this, KLS is also known as Sleeping Beauty Syndrome. A KLS episode usually lasts for just a few days but may also last up to a few weeks. Episodes of KLS can start abruptly and the time between episodes may vary. During the time between episodes, a patient may not exhibit any symptoms at all. The number of episodes a patient experiences decrease with age.

Kleine-Levin Syndrome is more common in adolescent males. Around 70 percent of those afflicted with KLS are male. However, females and individuals of other ages might also be affected by this disorder.

What are the symptoms of Kleine-Levin Syndrome?

Symptoms of KLS include:

  • Recurrent episodes of severe hypersomnia. Hypersomnia is a condition wherein a person has trouble staying awake during wakeful hours. When a person has hypersomnia, he can fall asleep at any time. This can happen even when an individual is performing activities like driving, eating or any work-related function.  A person with hypersomnia may also feel a lack of energy.
  • Hyper-sexuality. Hypersexuality is a disorder characterized by extremely frequent or increased libido.
  • Binge eating. Individuals with KLS often experience extreme hunger. They tend to overeat during episodes. This can lead to weight gain.
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Hallucinations or feelings of unreality
  • Confusion

What causes KLS?

Although the precise cause of Kleine-Levin Syndrome is still unknown, there are some factors that can put a person at high risk of this disorder.

A person who has an injury in the hypothalamus is at high risk of getting KLS. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that controls sleep, body temperature, and appetite. An injury in the hypothalamus may stem from a fall or from getting hit in the head.

There is also a theory that KLS is a type of autoimmune disorder. An autoimmune disease is characterized by the immune system attacking perfectly healthy tissue. The belief that KLS is an autoimmune disorder stemmed from the fact that some patients developed KLS after getting an infection like the flu.

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.

How is Kleine-Levin Syndrome Treated?

There is no known treatment for KLS. However, there are ways to manage its symptoms. There are medications that a patient can use to reduce the duration of an episode. The said medications can also help prevent future episodes.

One option is the use of stimulant pills. These medications can help promote wakefulness. They are also effective when it comes to reducing sleepiness. However, stimulant pills can cause irritability.

Some medications used to treat mood disorders can also be beneficial to individuals with KLS. Lithium and carbamazepine may help relieve the symptoms of KLS. These two are often used as a treatment for bipolar disorder.

Although rare, compared to other sleep disorders, Kleine-Levin Syndrome should not be taken lightly. Episodes that cause tiredness and sleepiness can occur abruptly. This can lead to injury not just to the patient but to the people around him. An episode while a patient is operating heavy machinery or a motor vehicle can lead to accidents.

A sleep specialist can help a patient with KLS manage his symptoms. This can reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries. Learning how to identify an impending episode can also go a long way towards removing a patient from a potentially dangerous situation. This way, even if KLS cannot be treated, it won’t impede the patient’s personal and professional life.

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The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.