01/27/2012 02:59 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2012

5 Tips For Battling Kleine-Levin Syndrome

Kleine-Levin syndrome is an uncommon sleep disorder that usually affects adults. We spoke to Subin Jain, M.D., a physician at the Sleep Disorders Center, Baptist Hospital East, in Louisville, Ky., for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.

If you think you might have Kleine-Levin syndrome, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Tracie Handley

Dr. Jain defines Kleine-Levin Syndrome as "a condition of episodic, or recurrent, extreme sleepiness which occurs in cycles, anywhere from one to 10 times per year." The disorder, he explains, is basically "a sleep attack, where [the patient] tends to sleep for as long as 16 or 17 hours a day." Lasting up to a couple of weeks, these episodes can be "accompanied by behavioral abnormalities such as binge eating, hypersexuality or aggressiveness."

Get A Professional Assessment

"Again," says Dr. Jain, "Kleine-Levin Syndrome is a very rare condition. There are relatively few reported cases in the medical literature, and even in a high-volume practice, you might see one case in five or six years, or none at all." He explains that, given the rarity of this disorder, an assessment by a sleep specialist is a requirement for accurate diagnosis.

Form A Supportive Network

According to Dr. Jain, "There is no specific treatment for Kleine-Levin Syndrome." A person suffering from the disorder should ensure that he or she is surrounded by a supportive network of "people who are aware of the condition and the effect it has on the life of the patient. Obviously, they cannot go to work or to school during one of the episodes."

Protect Yourself And Others

According to Dr. Jain, the patient should make sure that the people in his or her support network are aware of the potential for the behavioral abnormalities. They should be "prepared to prevent the patient from harming himself or harming others by the aggressiveness that may occur during this time."

Do Not Disturb The Patient

Dr. Jain advises against trying to awaken a person with Kleine-Levin Syndrome during one of the occurrences. "They may get extremely aggressive or very hostile. You want to prevent them from hurting themselves or hurting others, so you should avoid trying to wake them or keep them awake."

Talk With Your Doctor About Medications

Dr. Jain suggests that patients talk with their physician about medications to address serious, frequently-occurring cases of Kleine-Levin Syndrome. "We have tried medications such as lithium and valproic acid to decrease the occurrence, or recurrence, of Kleine-Levin Syndrome if it occurs very often," he adds.

Subin Jain, M.D., is a specialist in pulmonary medicine, sleep medicine, internal medicine and critical care medicine and is a physician at the Sleep Disorders Center at Baptist Hospital East in Louisville, Ky., as well as with Louisville Pulmonary Care. A graduate of Maulana Azad Medical College at the University of Delhi, Dr. Jain completed residency and fellowships at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, the University of Connecticut and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He is also board-certified in internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, critical care medicine and sleep medicine.

Have you ever suffered from a sleep disorder? What worked for you?