Did Kumbahkaran have Klein Levin Syndrome?
The story of Sleeping Beauty is holds an eternal appeal to the die-hard romantics among us. It evokes emotions of tenderness, and images of a beautiful princess in deep sleep, who can only be woken up by the kiss of true love. Other legendary sleepers, however, do not share the indulgent affection we feel for Sleeping Beauty! A classic case is that of Kumbhakarana character from Ramayana who is known for his trait of insatiable hunger and thirst as well as his penchant for sleeping for six months on end. This gigantic brother of the Evil Lord Ravana could not be woken up from his slumber when he had settled in for his rest.
The modern mind, ever curious about the origins of such folklore cannot but wonder if he suffered from a sleeping disease. Was it the Sleeping Beauty syndrome he suffered from? Are there any parallels of his case in medical history?
Legend has it that Kumbhakarna slept for six months and was wide awake for the next six months, and several reasons are cited to explain the phenomenon. Mythology says that Kumbhakarna prayed to Brahma for Indrasana (seat of Indra) but his tongue twisted and he asked for Nidrasana (ever sleeping place) and Brahma granted him this boon! Another version of the story says Kumbhakarna wanted Nirdevantvam (annihilation of devas) but ended up with Nidratvam (permanent sleep). Poor guy! Whatever the boon might have been, we know it for sure that he had some great sleep. Or maybe, he simply had a Restolex spring mattress which he loved that he simply couldn’t get off of it!
The Kleine-Levin syndrome, popularly known as sleeping beauty syndrome, is a rare sleeping disorder. It is characterized by recurrent bouts of hypersomnia and mood changes. Patients experience recurrent episodes of the condition for more than a decade. Individual episodes usually last for around a week to a month. But rest assured, these symptoms spontaneously resolve and don’t cause any permanent damage. Usually several months elapse between episodes. Besides hypersomnia, patients also experience cognitive impairment, altered perception, compulsive eating, hyper sexuality, etc.
Though Kleine-Levin syndrome is very rare, there is no known cure, and very little evidence supporting drug treatment. It occurs to one in a million, mostly found in adolescent males. Some female patients have also been reported with varying age of onset. All these conditions have limited the research to genetic factors. Though the cause for it still not known, several mechanisms have been proposed, like hypothalamic dysfunction. KLS patients do not need hospitalisation, but have to maintain proper sleep-hygiene and assurance from their caregivers. Patients should be taken good care of by parents and caregivers, and manage their disruptive behaviour or anxiety well when they wake up. A firm mattress can help them during their long sleeping hours.
Kumbhakarna was a model for Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver Travels. Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle slept for 20 years! Jewish scriptures speak of Rabbi Honi who gave both Gulliver and Rip Van Winkle a run for their money, by his feat of sleeping for 100 years! But Kumbhakarna was way different from these characters. His sleep had a specific pattern. He didn’t like to be disturbed and got violent if he was woken up! Even when Ravana needed his help in the war that he waged against Rama, it took enormous efforts to wake Kumbhakarna. Armies of musicians, elephant battalions, truckloads of weapons were used to get him out of the slumber.
Whether Kumbhakaran was afflicted with the Klein Levin Syndrome or not, it cannot be denied that he was passionate about his sleep. For those of us who envy his ability to tune out from the world and enjoy a snooze, the best option is to invest in a Restolex mattress which cushions and supports the body, and drift away into undisturbed sleep.