Idiopathic hypersomnia and Kleine-Levin syndrome

Rev Neurol (Paris). 2023 Oct;179(7):741-754. doi: 10.1016/j.neurol.2023.08.010. Epub 2023 Sep 6.


Idiopathic hypersomnia (IH) and Kleine-Levin syndrome (KLS) are rare disorders of central hypersomnolence of unknown cause, affecting young people. However, increased sleep time and excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) occur daily for years in IH, whereas they occur as relapsing/remitting episodes associated with cognitive and behavioural disturbances in KLS. Idiopathic hypersomnia is characterized by EDS, prolonged, unrefreshing sleep at night and during naps, and frequent morning sleep inertia, but rare sleep attacks, no cataplexy and sleep onset in REM periods as in narcolepsy. The diagnosis requires: (i) ruling out common causes of hypersomnolence, including mostly sleep apnea, insufficient sleep syndrome, psychiatric hypersomnia and narcolepsy; and (ii) obtaining objective EDS measures (mean latency at the multiple sleep latency test≤8min) or increased sleep time (sleep time>11h during a 18-24h bed rest). Treatment is similar to narcolepsy (except for preventive naps), including adapted work schedules, and off label use (after agreement from reference/competence centres) of modafinil, sodium oxybate, pitolisant, methylphenidate and solriamfetol. The diagnosis of KLS requires: (i) a reliable history of distinct episodes of one to several weeks; (ii) episodes contain severe hypersomnia (sleep>15h/d) associated with cognitive impairment (mental confusion and slowness, amnesia), derealisation, major apathy or disinhibited behaviour (hypersexuality, megaphagia, rudeness); and (iii) return to baseline sleep, cognition, behaviour and mood after episodes. EEG may contain slow rhythms during episodes, and rules out epilepsy. Functional brain imaging indicates hypoactivity of posterior associative cortex and hippocampus during symptomatic and asymptomatic periods. KLS attenuates with time when starting during teenage, including less frequent and less severe episodes. Adequate sleep habits, avoidance of alcohol and infections, as well as lithium and sometimes valproate (off label, after agreement from reference centres) help reducing the frequency and severity of episodes, and IV methylprednisolone helps reducing long (>30d) episode duration.

Keywords: Derealisation; Excessive daytime sleepiness; Hypersomnia; Kleine–Levin syndrome; Sleep drunkenness.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence* / diagnosis
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Idiopathic Hypersomnia* / diagnosis
  • Idiopathic Hypersomnia* / epidemiology
  • Idiopathic Hypersomnia* / therapy
  • Kleine-Levin Syndrome* / complications
  • Kleine-Levin Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Kleine-Levin Syndrome* / therapy
  • Narcolepsy*
  • Sleep