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Since she was 10 years old, Alanna has suffered from sleeping spells, when she appears to be awake but actually is in a semi-conscious state. When she wakes up, she has no memories of what happened during that time. Her longest episode lasted eight months.
When she was 18, Alanna finally was diagnosed with Kleine-Levin Syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by recurring periods of excessive sleep, altered behavior, confusion and lack of energy. Some patients report they are hypersensitive to noise and light, and their vision is blurred. Some also experience food cravings during the sleeping spells.
The condition, which has been called the “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome,” usually affects adolescents, and the episodes can continue for 10 years or more. It is not clear what causes the disorder, but doctors believe it is related to blood flow to the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that controls sleep, appetite and body temperature.
Alanna’s doctor, Nathanial Watson, a professor of neurology, explains that the disorder often is misdiagnosed.
Recently, Alanna has begun using an experimental cream that often is used to treat hypersomnia.
“Right when I take the cream and apply it, I feel clear-minded, I feel awake, and I feel like my old self, Alanna,” she says. “I feel like my personality is back.”
The Doctors surprise Alanna, who dreams of becoming a fitness model, with the opportunity to be featured in an upcoming issue of Women's Health magazine.