What Even Is Sleeping Beauty Syndrome?

Photographed by Bianca Valle.
A version of this article originally appeared on Shape.

Earlier this week, the Daily Mail reported on the life story of Beth Goodier, a 22-year-old woman with Kleine-Levin Syndrome (KLS), or, as it's known more commonly, Sleeping Beauty syndrome. She was diagnosed five years ago, when she went to sleep in November and didn't wake up until six months had passed. Excessive sleep is the primary symptom of the syndrome, but there's a little more to it than that.

Related: Asking For A Friend: Is Snoring Really So Bad?
For one thing, those who suffer from KLS don't get much of a say as to when or where they fall asleep before entering into an episode (the term for an extended period of sleep). "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," Josna Adusumilli, MD, a neurologist and sleep disorders physician, told Shape. They may get up to use the bathroom or to eat something, but it's very difficult to wake them completely.

Dr. Adusumilli added that the syndrome can cause people to "be irritable, aggressive, and confused" once they awake. Child-like behavior, extreme food cravings, and hyper-sexuality have been seen in patients, too.

Related: How To Fall Back To Sleep When You Wake Up at 2 A.M.

Other than its major symptoms, KLS remains largely a mystery. "We don't know the origins of KLS, and the treatment is basically symptomatic," sleep research expert Thomas Roth, PhD, explained. In other words, no one knows the exact cause of KLS, so the only way to treat it, at the moment, is to address its symptoms. For example, Dr. Roth said it sometimes helps to give patients stimulants to keep them awake during the daytime.

On the bright side, this syndrome remains extremely rare, Dr. Roth told Shape. And, even when it does occur, it isn't permanent: It's most often seen in adolescents (though cases have been seen in younger children and adults) and symptoms generally dissipate after eight to 12 years. And again, it's rare. Though it certainly isn't the stuff of fairy tales, you probably don't have to worry about Sleeping Beauty Syndrome.

Click through to Shape for more on getting your best night's sleep. (Shape)

Related: 12 Common Sleep Myths, Busted

More from Mind


R29 Original Series