A university student has told how she suffers from a rare syndrome which means she sleeps for WEEKS at a time – and even napped through her exams.
Rhoda Rodriguez-Diaz, 21, has ‘Sleeping Beauty syndrome’ and can sleep for up 22 hours a day, only waking in a dream-like trance to eat junk food, drink and go to the toilet.
At its worst her sleeping episodes can last three weeks, and it meant she failed the second year of uni after she slept through crucial end-of-year exams.
As a child Rhoda was diagnosed with hyper insomnia – characterised by extreme tiredness – by her GP.
But it wasn’t until September last year that doctors finally discovered the psychology student had the one-in-a-million Kleine-Levin Syndrome.
She goes months at a time without experiencing an episode, but when they strike, she is totally wiped out.
Rhoda, from Leicester, said: “Life goes on whilst I’m sleeping. Reality hits me when I wake up and realise I’ve missed like a week of my life.
“I feel a huge setback when it does happen. I miss out on so much. That’s the hardest part of it.
“It’s hard to explain to people where I have been. Because it’s so rare a lot of people struggle to understand.
“It’s really annoying when people call me lazy. I do struggle to deal with the effects of it.
“But I’m determined to not let it have a big impact on my life. It is one part of me and not who I am.
“It’s frustrating because people think I’m just lazy. But I’m not, I can’t help it.”
Rhoda recalls how as a child, she was unable spend as much time with friends as she would have liked.
“It was quite bad when I was a child. But then it didn’t happen again until I was a teenager.
“When I was 15 or 16 I remember finding myself sleeping more and more.
“Even at school I would fall asleep in the study area.
“I forced myself to go to school. I didn’t get teased but I found it very frustrating.
“I was really into my sports but I couldn’t do as much as I wanted to because I was constantly tired.
“I had to force myself to do every day activities and found myself mentally tired all of the time.
“When I wake up after a few days I feel normal again. My friends say they can tell when I have an episode coming on because my mood changes.
“I get worked up and my behaviour changes drastically.”
Between February and June last year Rhoda went through a period of suffering from a number of episodes, which left her unable to spend enough time on her studies.
She said she was dismissed from her course in July last year when she failed to show for a number of exams and missed coursework deadlines because she was asleep.
After a visit to the GP, in May last year, Rhoda was sent to see specialists doctors at St Thomas’ Hospital and finally got her diagnosis in September.
She added: “It’s not as bad as it used to be but I feel like I’m always playing catch up.
“I was sleeping a lot in my first year too but because it didn’t have too much of an impact on my work I didn’t go to the doctors.
“It was when I was missing work that I went to my GP. I tried to explain to uni that I had a condition that was stopping me from doing work.
“But because I wasn’t diagnosed until September I had nothing to back it up.
“I didn’t have enough credits to pass the year and I was dismissed.”
Rhoda last experienced an episode around three months ago when she slept for over 60 hours in just three days.
Rhoda typically snacks on junk food during nap breaks and often puts on weight during an episode, she says.
She has now re-enrolled to resume her studies, and is sitting her second year again.
Rhoda said: “I missed so many exams. 60 per cent of my course is exams and I missed half of them.
“It wasn’t my fault. But they said this is an ‘exceptional case’ so I am allowed to go back.
“It’s a big relief but I have to redo a lot of work I did in second year. It was difficult for me.”
People who suffer with Kleine-Levin Syndrome are known to grow out of the condition eventually, and Rhoda says has learnt to manage her condition in adult life.
She said: “I’m more aware of it now. I know when I’m going to have an episode.
“It used to feel like I was in a dream. It’s such a surreal feeling. It feels like you’re not really there.
“This is just a hiccup in my life and I am just waiting until it fades out. I want to be taken serious in life and this isn’t helping.”