When Lois Woods falls asleep, she can’t be quite sure when she’ll next wake. It could be a few hours. Or it could be two months.
Woods, a British teenager, suffers from the rare Kleine-Levin Syndrome. During her long bouts of sleep, Woods can only be roused to drink, eat and use the restroom. She occasionally “wakes” on her own to attack her younger brother or to raid the refrigerator for junk food.
“We call her Little Lois when she’s in episode,” said Setta Woods, Lois’ mother, to Caters News Agency. “She goes from being like a zombie and ignoring me or huffing and puffing, to like a two-year-old, bouncing off the walls.”
Before becoming afflicted with the syndrome when she was 14, Woods was a straight-A student who dreamed of playing professional basketball. Now, her grades have slipped and consistent sports practice has become impossible.
Similar to narcoleptics, Woods can fall asleep without warning: She once passed out while on the stairs. However, Woods was convinced her disorder was different.
“They thought I could be narcoleptic, schizophrenic or be suffering from chronic fatigue,” Woods said. “But I had seen a documentary about KLS and both me and my mom knew that’s what it was.”
Only 1,000 people are known to suffer from KLS. According to WebMD, the exact cause of KLS is unknown, but researchers believe it may be hereditary. Symptoms may also be related to malfunctions in the hypothalamus and thalamus. Just as with Woods, KLS typically begins during adolescence. There is no known cure.
“There is no definitive treatment for Kleine-Levin syndrome and watchful waiting at home, rather than pharmacotherapy, is most often advised,” reports the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Woods requires constant care while she’s having an episode, which puts a strain on her family. Her rageful outbursts are also an issue.
“I do things in my sleep that I would never do if I was awake. I get so aggressive and will hurt my little brother. I woke up once and he had a bruise the size of an orange. I hate myself for it,” Woods said.
Although KLS sufferers’ personalities return to normal when they are awake, there may be prone to depression as a result of the feeling they have no control over their own actions. Fortunately, there is still hope for Woods, as the majority of KLS sufferers experience fewer and less severe episodes as they grow older.