The incredibly rare disorder makes people sleep for sometimes months at a time. Say what?
Taking a super-long nap Sleeping-Beauty-style might sound sort of appealing if you're feeling overwhelmed by everything going on in the world right now. But for a 22-year-old woman named Beth Goodier (shown above), crazy-long bouts of sleep are anything but a fairy tale. Goodier fell asleep in November five years ago and didn't fully wake up for six months, reports the Daily Mail. It was discovered that Goodier had something called Kleine–Levin Syndrome (aka Sleeping Beauty Syndrome), an incredibly rare sleep disorder that causes excessive sleepiness accompanied by altered behavior upon waking, according to the KLS Foundation. (Did you know that snoring is actually a big deal? It could mean you have a sleep disorder.)
To be clear, Beth didn't sleep for six months straight without any breaks, but was unable to function normally as a result of her need to sleep and was forced to drop out of school because of the illness. "Patients with KLS are tough to awaken," explains Josna Adusumilli, M.D., neurologist and sleep disorders physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. "The need for sleep is so strong that they can be found sleeping in unusual places, such as the hallway outside a classroom or on the sidewalk. They wake up spontaneously to eat and use the restroom. After waking up from an episode, they can be irritable, aggressive, and confused," she says. For some, their behavior can take on child-like quality, while others experience things like hypersexuality and excessive food cravings. In other words, this is a disorder of extremes, which is particularly troubling because the onset is generally during the adolescent years, although it can affect children and adults too.
But don't worry. "It's incredibly rare," says Thomas Roth, Ph.D., sleep research expert at Henry Ford Health System. "We don't know the origins of KLS and the treatment is basically symptomatic," he adds. Because so few people have this disorder, it's incredibly hard to figure out what causes it or to do meaningful research on the best treatments. Essentially, the only way to treat KLS is to try to cope with the symptoms, which Roth says is sometimes done with the use of stimulants in order to keep patients awake during the day. (Here, we bust 12 common sleep myths.)
If all of this is freaking you out, don't get too nervous. Roth says that he's been in sleep medicine since 1975 and has only seen one case in his years of practice—and he sees thousands of patients per year. It's also worth noting that for many people, the disorder goes away over time, so it's not a permanent condition. In any case, we'll never think of Sleeping Beauty the same way again.