Sleeping beauty syndrome is for real

Sleeping Beauty and Rip Van Winkle may have been fictional characters but Beth Goodier, Shannon Magee, Connor Prince, Heather and John Flowe are not. These are patients suffering from the Sleeping Beauty Syndrome. Yes, you read that right — this is actually a rare and complex neurological disorder also called the Kleine-Levin Syndrome (KLS).

Experts say that this disorder usually strikes when one is around 16 — and lasts for around 13 years. The disease is rare but we do have patients suffering from it in India, says Dr Preeti Devnani, neurologist and sleep disorder specialist. She adds, “KLS is a rare disease with a prevalence of one to two cases per million inhabitants.”

KLS is a rare disease with a prevalence of one to two cases per million inhabitants (Thinkstock)

Symptom checker
Dr Preeti explains, “A KLS patient may sleep anywhere between two to 31 days, and suffer from one of these cognitive abnormalities such as feelings of unreality, confusion, hallucinations, abnormal behaviour, irritability, aggression, binge eating and hyper-sexuality. These symptoms can be interspersed with long periods of normal sleep, cognition, behaviour and mood.”
Kailash Mantry, mental health and wellness professional says, “Episodes of KLS are cyclical. When present, the symptoms can persist even for months — during which, all usual daily activities of the patient stop. Most people with this syndrome are bedridden, tired, as well as uncommunicative, even when they are awake. Not everyone affected by KLS experiences all of the symptoms associated with the syndrome.”

What causes this?
What causes KLS is not really known, say doctors. Dr Preeti elaborates, “The pathology of the disease suggests a malfunction in the hypothalamus and thalamus — regions of the brains, which help regulate sleep patterns, appetite and sex drive.”
Viral and autoimmune causative factors have been suggested due to the fact that many KLS patients also suffer flu-like symptoms at the onset of the disease. She adds, “It has also been suggested that an infection may act as a trigger for people who have a genetic disposition towards KLS.”
Dr Amrapali Patil, wellness professional says, “This disorder is characterised by neurochemical imbalance hypoperfusion of certain areas of brain and known to have a genetic background.” In the beginning of a KLS episode, the patient becomes progressively drowsy. Then they fall asleep for long hours — hypersomnolence — sometimes waking only to eat or go to the bathroom. Such episodes continue for days, weeks and sometimes months. In between two such episodes, the patient appears to be in perfect health with no evidence of any kind of behavioural or any other type of physical dysfunction.
Dr Patil says, “This condition is so rare that enough subjects are not available to conduct clinical trials and research to generate data. KLS is said to affect one in millions and it is difficult to track it’s incidence in Mumbai.”

Is there a way to prevent it?
There is no definitive treatment for KLS, however, doctors may prescribe certain medications to alleviate the symptoms. Dr Preeti says, “Stimulants can counter the effects of hypersomnia but they do not alleviate the associated cognitive disturbances. Mood altering drugs have also proved beneficial in some cases of KLS.” Dr Patil adds, “Lithium is said to provide some prevention against these episodes.”

How does it affect one?
Along with excessive sleep, the whole demeanour of a person suffering from KLS changes. They appear to be spaced-out or childlike. When awake, they experience disorientation, confusion, a complete lack of energy, as well as lack of emotions. A majority of people with KLS report that everything seems to be out of focus and that they are hypersensitive to light and noise. In some instances, food cravings are a part of the symptoms they experience. Instances of uninhibited hyper-sexuality during an episode have been reported by people with KLS.

The psychology behind it
Mantry says, “We have found that KLS patients have psychological issues like attention-seeking strategies, absence of love, doubts on near and dear ones, general weakness in health, irresponsible behaviour and a disturbed social life. Such patients also have no aims or goals, feel resigned, skeptical, hypocritical, have poor communication skills, see no reason to wake up, are afraid, lazy, whimsical, egoistic and hurtful. Other issues include victimisation, absence of family bonding, no courage to accept challenges and low self-esteem.”

Instances of excessive daytime sleepiness in Mumbai

Dr Ramanthan Iyer, sleep specialist says, “KLS is extremely rare but excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is common in Mumbai. It is characterised by persistent sleepiness and often a general lack of energy, even during the day, after apparently adequate or even prolonged night-time sleep.”

Should you be sleeping twice a day instead of once?

A shocker for most, a study suggested that what may suit our bodies better than sleeping once a day is sleeping twice a day. Two shorter slumbers may suit our body clocks better than one long eight-hour sleep. Many doctors and sleepresearchers are suggesting that sleeping twice a day could only be a modern concept, which came along the advent of electricity.
Should you be sleeping twice a day instead of once? (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)

Are we sleeping the wrong way?

There are many countries and cultures that follow the concept of biphasic sleep, that is, sleeping in two slots during a day. Some follow sleeping six hours at night and 120 minutes during the day; some ancient civilizations have been known to split their sleep in two slots of four hours each. Studies now are suggesting that sleeping in two segments can increase one’s alertness, can better his time management and provide him with greater flexibility to carry out his work.

Today, it is reported that about a third of the world’s population has trouble falling or staying asleep. Waking up in the middle of the sleep could signify what used to be followed by our ancestors. For them, it could be the norm to wake up at that time and have a segmented sleep. In fact, there have been mentions of ‘first’ and ‘second’ sleep in African and American tribes and in many texts of medieval literature.

Is it why we feel the post-lunch dip in energy?

Meanwhile, many sleep scientists are also saying that the monophasic way of sleep that we follow is simply a result of the advent of electricity. Our ancestors, without an artificial source of light, had to depend on sun to light their homes. They are known to go to bed at 8:30 pm and woke up at 2:30 am to read or pray. Segmented sleep was only ubiquitously followed.

Now, that we have routines that require us to work 8 to 12 hours a day and commute for the same, we have all the resources that do not handicap us to natural light for our day to day activity.

Should we sleep twice a day?

Though studies are claiming that biphasic sleep may be better for our body clocks and give us certain advantages, can we really adopt to it in a modern set-up? What will happen if we do? As doctors advise an ‘uninterrupted’ 8-hour sleep, how does the biphasic sleep bode with that?

Changing your sleep pattern can negatively affect your body and can keep your energy drained out throughout the day. If one tries to push a certain sleep cycle on his body, it may even destroy his circadian rhythm and biological clock. In fact, one of the prominent causes of postpartum depression in women is known to be irregular sleep routine that they get after the delivery of a child. So, one can only wonder if the biphasic sleep model would really be something worth the energy and time of research being put into it.

Sleeping less than 6 hours may double death risk

A study found that people with metabolic syndrome who slept for more than six hours were about 1.49 times m… Read More
Failing to sleep less than six hours may nearly double the risk of death in people with metabolic syndrome – a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, researchers have warned.

A study found that people with metabolic syndrome who slept for more than six hours were about 1.49 times more likely to die of stroke.

<p>A study found that people with metabolic syndrome who slept for more than six hours were about 1.49 times more likely to die of stroke.<br></p>

Conversely, those who slept less than six hours were about 2.1 times more likely to die of heart disease or stroke.

For those who got more sleep, the risk of death was more modest, the researchers said.

The short sleepers with metabolic syndrome were also 1.99 times more likely to die from any cause compared to those without metabolic syndrome.

“If you have several heart disease risk factors, taking care of your sleep and consulting with a clinician if you have insufficient sleep is important if you want to lower your risk of death from heart disease or stroke,” said lead author Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

For the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the team selected 1,344 adults (average age 49 years, 42 per cent male) who agreed to spend one night in a sleep laboratory.

The results showed that 39.2 per cent of the participants had at least three of the risk factors — body mass index (BMI) higher than 30 and elevated total cholesterol, blood pressure, fasting blood sugar and triglyceride levels.

During an average follow-up of 16.6 years, 22 per cent of the participants died.

“Future clinical trials are needed to determine whether lengthening sleep, in combination with lowering blood pressure and glucose, improves the prognosis of people with the metabolic syndrome,” Fernandez-Mendoza said.

Sleep Deprived? Dedicate the Weekend for Sleeping to Stay Healthy

Our work life can get quite hectic, leaving us with very little time to sleep. While sleep may seem like least priority on our extensive to-do list, it should not be taken lightly. It is not without reason that health experts tell us to dedicate seven to eight hours for a good night’s sleep. The fact is that rest is crucial in helping your body carry out various functions effectively. Good sleep can help you a great deal in your path to healthy lifestyle. And if you find it tough to get good sleep during weekdays, then dedicate your weekends to catch up on sleep.

According to a study done by Seoul National University Budang Hospital, catching up on lost sleep over weekends may help people keep their weight down. Not getting enough sleep can disrupt hormones and metabolism and is known to increase the risk of obesity, warned the researchers.

Sleep Deprived? Dedicate the Weekend for Sleeping to Stay Healthy

“Short sleep, usually causing sleep debt, is common and inevitable in many cases, and is a risk factor for obesity, hypertension, coronary heart disease, as well as mortality,” said lead author Chang-Ho Yun. “Sleeping in may be better than napping, as the sleep may be deeper and follows the body’s sleep-wake rhythms more closely.”

To determine how weekend sleep is related to body weight, the researchers used data from a nationwide survey of more than 2,000 people who ranged in age from 19 to 82 years old. Researchers asked participants about their height and weight, weekday and weekend sleep habits, mood and medical conditions. The study team used this information to determine BMI, a measure of weight relative to height, and whether participants engaged in catchup sleep on weekends.


Weekend sleep is related to body weight, found researchers; Image credit: Istock

Weekend catch-up sleep was defined as sleeping more hours on weekend nights compared to weekday nights. On average, the participants slept 7.3 hours per night and had BMIs of 23, which falls in the healthy range.


About 43% of people slept longer on weekends by nearly two hours. People who slept-in on weekends tended to sleep shorter hours during weekdays, but slept more hours overall across the week. The researchers’ analysis found that those who slept in on weekends had average BMI of 22.8 while those who didn’t averaged 23.1, which was a small but statistically meaningful difference.


“If you cannot sleep sufficiently on workdays because of work or social obligations, try to sleep as much as possible on the weekend. It might alleviate the risk for obesity . Weekend sleep extension could be a quick fix to compensate sleep loss over the week but is not an ultimate solution for chronic sleep loss,” Yun cautioned.