Kleine-Levin syndrome: symptoms, causes and treatment

Sleep for hours and hours without a break; for many people, it may seem like a pleasure to be able to establish an extended rest period to rejuvenate after a day’s work.

But for others, it can be a real torment that greatly limits their life as they can spend most of the day sleeping, as well as severe changes in behavior and mood while they are awake. We are talking about those people who are suffering from the disorder known as Kleine-Levin syndrome, a disorder related to hypersomnia.

Sleeping Beauty Syndrome

Also known as Sleeping Beauty Syndrome, Kleine Levin syndrome is a disorder of neurological origin characterized by the presence of episodes of profound hypersomnia, in which the individual can sleep for up to twenty hours at a stretch.

In addition to hypersomnia, the presence of cognitive and behavioral disorders. Memory, reasoning and judgment can also be impaired, as can physical and mental slowness and fatigue.

In the period in which the individual with Kleine-Levin syndrome is awake, it manifests uninhibited and even compulsive behavior, With overeating and hypersexuality and an attitude between childish and aggressive. The subject has a labile and irritable emotivity which can trigger violent actions. Sometimes they may also observe the presence of dissociative phenomena such as unrealization or perceptual alterations such as hallucinations.

This disorder usually begins in adolescence, With a higher prevalence in men, which causes them severe disability in the periods of time when they show symptoms.

Episodes can last for days or weeks, And can occur several times during the year. However, in the period of time between the different episodes, the behavior and the amount of sleep are normative, recovering their normal mental functions and being able to lead a normal life at these times.

An unknown cause

The causes of this neurological disorder are not yet known, Although it is speculated on the presence of alterations in the functioning of the hypothalamus and the entire limbic system and some others subcortical structures related to the regulation of emotions and sleep.

Specifically, it has been observed that many patients suffer from hypoperfusion in the limbic system, thalamus, and frontotemporal cortex (i.e. the amount of blood reaching these regions is reduced, so that they are not as irrigated as they should be). too much electroencephalic activity seems to slow down.

A possible genetic influence that could explain the phenomenon has been investigated, but although it has been found that there are sometimes multiple cases in the same family, there is no evidence to confirm it. It has also been speculated that it could be due to head trauma, infectious medical conditions, or severe stress.

Treatment of Kleine-Levin syndrome

Kleine-Levin syndrome does not have a clear etiology, therefore it is difficult to perform curative treatment. Treatment for the presence of this disorder usually focuses on the symptoms.

As with other hypersomnias, several have often been used psychotropic drugs to control symptoms. The use of stimulants can promote an increase in the activity of the subjects and reduce the episodes of sleep in duration and frequency, although on the other hand it can alter the presence of impulsive actions and hallucinations. Antipsychotics have also been used. To manage behavioral disorders, as well as antidepressants such as MAOIs and imapramine, eutimizers and anticonvulsants.

psychological intervention

At the psychological level, it is necessary use psychoeducation both with the patient and with the environment due to the emotional, behavioral and social complications that their condition can cause, which can damage the support and help networks available to patients with this disorder. Emotional issues arising from the experience of the disorder also need to be addressed, especially in asymptomatic periods.

The use of cognitive-behavioral techniques this is another element to consider in this aspect, using cognitive restructuring or learning ways to deal with the situation. The aim is to make the interpretation of the symptom experience as appropriate as possible.

Fortunately, in many cases, despite being a repeat offender Kleine-Levin syndrome tends to go away over the years.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Arias, M .; Crespo, JM; Pérez, J: Requena, I .; Sesar, A. and Peleteiro, M. (2002). Kleine-Levin syndrome: diagnostic contribution of cerebral SPECT. Tower. Neurol .; 35 (6): 531-533.
    • Arnulf, A .; Lecendreux, M .; Franco, P. and Dauvilliers, Y. (2008). Kleine-Levine syndrome. Orphanet Encyclopedia. [En línea]. Available at: www.orpha.net/data/patho/Pro/fr/KleineLevin-FRfrPro10326v01.pdf [20/05/2017].
    • Erro, ME and Zandio, B. (2007). Hypersomnias: diagnosis, classification and treatment. Annals of the Navarra Health System; 30. Hospital of Navarre. Pamplona.

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