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Syndrome Can Keep People Asleep For Weeks

Local 6 | November 7, 2006

A rare syndrome that typically strikes during adolescence can keep sufferers asleep for days, sometime as many as 14 days, according to a Local 6 News report.

The report featured central Floridian Spencer Spearin, 20, who is sometimes afraid to shut his eyes. The Ormond Beach man was diagnosed with Kleine Levin Syndrome -- a rare but debilitating disorder.

Every four months or so, Spearin climbs into bed and sleeps for days or longer, the report said.

"I might not be with you for a couple weeks," Spearin said. "I missed my birthday. I missed my graduation. I can't remember what I ate yesterday. I can't remember what I did yesterday."

Many times, the disorder appears after a flu-like illness.

Dr. Emanuel Mignot said patients suffer from periodic episodes of extreme sleepiness and abnormal, child-like behavior.

"They feel like they are in a fog," Mignot said. "They don't know exactly the reality around them. If you try to wake them up they are very irritable."

Spearin's father, David, said his son can tell when a spell is coming.

"He'll say my head's fuzzy, it's getting tight, there's pressure," Spearin said. "And it won't be long from there that he'll be in his room."

During the dream-like state, most patients only get up to use the bathroom or eat -- often enormous amounts of food.

The report also featured a college student, Emily Dano, 18, who has had 30 episodes over the past four years.

Her mother said the longest episode lasted longer than a month.

"I could just see her life, just everything that you hope for your child, just sort of washing away," Christine Dano said.

Mignot said there is no known cause and no cure.

"What is known is that certain areas of the brain seem to be extremely active during episodes," Local 6's Jacqueline London said.

"One of them in particular is the thalamus, an area deep in the brain that's very important for sleep regulation," Mignot said.

Mignot has launched a study on Kleine-Levin syndrome in the hopes of finding a gene that causes it.

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