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Sleeping Beauty Syndrome: The Disorder Where You Sleep All Day

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Dan Lewis runs the wildly popular daily newsletter Now I Know (“Learn Something New Every Day, By Email”). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

Fairy tales made their way into the modern literary sphere when French author Charles Perrault published Histoires ou contes du temps passé in 1697 (literally, “Stories or tales of times past”). Histoires was a collection of stories that quickly permeated our culture, including the now-famous Cinderella, Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, and Sleeping Beauty. Whatever basis Perrault’s stories have in reality are quite tenuous at best — one doesn’t see pumpkins-as-chariots, swashbuckling cats, or wolves wearing grandma’s bed clothes in the real world.

The sleeping-for-a-century part of the Sleeping Beauty tale is also total fiction. But sleeping for days on end is not. It is perfectly possible and, if it happens, most likely due to a neurological disorder called Kleine-Levin Syndrome (KLS), or, colloquially, Sleeping Beauty Syndrome.

Those affected by KLS sleep the whole day and night away, waking only to eat and use the bathroom, and typically only briefly at that (although some KLS sufferers report elongated eating binges). While awake, the person appears zombie-like, having little energy and showing even less emotion. Many are unable to even communicate while awake. In extreme cases, such as the case of Louise Ball in the UK, episodes can last as long as ten days and waking up is rare. Caretakers (in Ball’s case, her parents) are instructed to try to wake the person to get him or her to use the bathroom and try to eat.

KLS is most prevalent in teenagers, with the first onset occurring, on average, at about age 15 — and with no discernible cause. Episodes can occur as frequently as every few weeks to only once in five years, but on average, the sleeping spells occur every six months. By a KLS sufferer’s mid-to-late 20s, the syndrome often disappears, again with no discernible cause. Similarly, KLS is difficult to diagnose, as there are no markers unique to it other than the symptom set, and physicians need to eliminate all other possible causes before declaring KLS the cause of the lethargy. Because of this, the syndrome often takes years to correctly diagnose. The good news is that it's extremely rare: It affects only about six people in ten thousand.

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Space
Can’t See the Eclipse in Person? Watch NASA’s 360° Live Stream
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Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Depending on where you live, the historic eclipse on August 21 might not look all that impressive from your vantage point. You may be far away from the path of totality, or stuck with heartbreakingly cloudy weather. Maybe you forgot to get your eclipse glasses before they sold out, or can't get away from your desk in the middle of the day.

But fear not. NASA has you covered. The space agency is live streaming a spectacular 4K-resolution 360° live video of the celestial phenomenon on Facebook. The livestream started at 12 p.m. Eastern Time and includes commentary from NASA experts based in South Carolina. It will run until about 4:15 ET.

You can watch it below, on NASA's Facebook page, or on the Facebook video app.

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Art
Cephalopod Fossil Sketch in Australia Can Be Seen From Space

Australia is home to some of the most singular creatures alive today, but a new piece of outdoor art pays homage to an organism that last inhabited the continent 65 million years ago. As the Townsville Bulletin reports, an etching of a prehistoric ammonite has appeared in a barren field in Queensland.

Ammonites are the ancestors of the cephalopods that currently populate the world’s oceans. They had sharp beaks, dexterous tentacles, and spiraling shells that could grow more than 3 feet in diameter. The inland sea where the ammonites once thrived has since dried up, leaving only fossils as evidence of their existence. The newly plowed dirt mural acts as a larger-than-life reminder of the ancient animals.

To make a drawing big enough to be seen from space, mathematician David Kennedy plotted the image into a path consisting of more than 600 “way points.” Then, using a former War World II airfield as his canvas, the property’s owner Rob Ievers plowed the massive 1230-foot-by-820-foot artwork into the ground with his tractor.

The project was funded by Soil Science Australia, an organization that uses soil art to raise awareness of the importance of farming. The sketch doubles as a paleotourist attraction for the local area, which is home to Australia's "dinosaur trail" of museums and other fossil-related attractions. But to see the craftsmanship in all its glory, visitors will need to find a way to view it from above.

[h/t Townsville Bulletin]

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