Sleeping beauty syndrome

ATLANTA (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) - You'be heard of insomnia: a condition that makes it difficult, if not impossible to fall asleep.

But have you ever heard the term hypersomnia?  People with hypersomnia, also known as sleeping beauty syndrome, have the opposite problem. They have a hard time waking up. But now, researchers are working to understand hypersomnia's cause so they can find a cure.

Diana Kimmel was a photographer, medical billing specialist and a mom. For years, she blamed her extreme exhaustion on a hectic lifestyle until her body shut down.

Kimmel spent five years trying to get a diagnosis. All the time, her need for hours of sleep was sharply on the rise.

"I would be up to 15-16 [hours]," Kimmel said. "I would sleep all night long. I would wake up and by 9, 10 o'clock, I was back in bed."

David Rye, MD, PhD, Neurologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta says hypersomnia is much more intense than feeling a little groggy first thing.

"That feeling of that fog being there isn't going to go away with a cup of coffee" Dr. Rye explains.

Dr. Rye and colleagues at the Emory University Sleep Center are studying hypersomnia and they've identified a possible cause in some patients by testing cerebrospinal fluid.

"Their body is producing a small protein, or what's called a peptide that essentially mimics the effects of sleeping pills or anesthesia" he says.

Researchers are testing a drug that is already FDA approved to treat an overdose of sedatives. It's called Flumazenil. Patients rub it into their skin like a lotion - or put it under their tongue like a lozenge.

"I did see a noticeable difference after three days," says Kimmel.

Dr. Rye says about 75 percent of the patients who came to the sleep center complaining of symptoms of hypersomnia tested positive for the peptide in the cerebrospinal fluid.  About half of those patients who used Flumazenil responded to the treatment.

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