Kleine-Levin syndrome is a rare neurological disorder characterised by recurrent episodes of excessive sleep and altered behaviour. People affected by this syndrome may sleep for up to 20 hours per day (hypersomnia), waking only to eat or go to the bathroom. The start of each episode is characterised by progressive drowsiness and episodes may last for days, weeks, or even months. During episodes, other symptoms experienced may include:
- Compulsive overeating
- Lack of energy
- Lack of emotion
- Hypersensitivity to noise and light
- Impulsive behaviour
- Abnormally uninhibited sex drive.
This syndrome occurs mostly in young males between the ages of 15 and 25 years. It is uncommon after the age of 40 years. The cause of Kleine-Levin syndrome is unknown. However, symptoms may be related to malfunction of the hypothalamus and thalamus - parts of the brain that control appetite and sleep.
Diagnosis and treatment
The person may be referred to various specialists, including a psychiatrist and neurologist. The neurologist will undertake an evaluation of the nervous system to exclude structural abnormalities of the brain. The psychiatrist will look at any underlying behavioural problems.
Currently there is no formal treatment for Kleine-Levin syndrome due to the lack of knowledge regarding its underlying cause. Stimulant medications, such as amphetamines, may be prescribed to treat sleepiness. Medications to treat mood disturbances and depression may also be recommended.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2009) Kleine-Levin Syndrome Information Page. National Institutes of Health. Bethesda. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/kleine_levin/kleine_levin.htm
Stanford University School of Medicine School of Narcolepsy (2013) Kleine-Levin Syndrome. StanfordUniversitySchool of Medicine. Stanford. http://med.stanford.edu/school/Psychiatry/narcolepsy/KLS.html