October 09, 2017
Sleeping Beauty may have been a beloved childhood film, but its storyline is probably not one you’d want to repeat in your own home.
Surprisingly, Sleeping Beauty Syndrome is a real disorder, and it affects mostly adolescent boys. If you’ve noticed a change in your teen lately — one that includes the excessive need for sleep, coupled with changes in mood, eating habits and flu-like symptoms, Sleepy Beauty Syndrome may be to blame.
The more official name for this disorder is Kleine-Levin Syndrome, and scientists and doctors are not sure what causes it. Theories rationalize that it’s a malfunction in the area of the brain called the hypothalamus. This is the area that regulates sleep, body temperature and appetite. It may be genetic or hereditary by nature, and it often clears up as the patient gets older.
Someone suffering from Kleine-Levin needs a disproportionate amount of sleep, sometimes up to 20 hours per day! Their appetite typically increases and may result in compulsive eating, even of foods they typically dislike or that look unappealing. Patients may gain weight as a result.
When they’re awake, patients may be unusually irritable, moody, listless, lethargic or confused. They may suffer from hallucinations or from feelings of being outside their bodies looking in. Heightened sex drive may be a symptom, as may absentmindedness, aggression or depression, says the National Organization for Rare Disorders, or NORD.
Symptoms tend to be episodic and cyclical in nature and may last for days or weeks before disappearing, only to return again later. They tend to begin when the patient is around 16 years old.
Also called Familial Hibernation Syndrome or Kleine-Levin Hibernation Syndrome, this disorder is currently an enigma to doctors who aren’t exactly sure what causes it. Common remedies treat the specific symptoms to bring relief to the patient. Stimulants may be prescribed to help offset the sleepiness, and drugs like those used to treat epilepsy and depression have proven beneficial. Typically, someone with Kleine-Levin will require a medical team, instead of a single provider, so that all aspects of the disease can be approached. A neurologist, psychologist, family physician, pediatrician or sleep specialist may all be parts of an effective treatment plan.
If you see sudden changes in your teen boy or teen girl, it may be more than just normal hormonal changes. While Kleine-Levin Syndrome is very rare, there is evidence of around 500 cases in recent medical history, says NORD. Sometimes the disorder seems to simply go into remission as the child ages, but sometimes, it becomes a lifelong battle. If you suspect that the irritability or moodiness of your teen could be caused by something more than normal, emotional changes, talk with your child’s pediatrician and mention your concerns. Caught early, intervention for Kleine-Levin Syndrome can provide extreme relief for you, for your teen and for your entire family.