A student who can sometimes sleep for 22 hours a day has hit back at people who accuse her of being lazy. Rhoda Rodriguez-Diaz, 21, suffers with the rare sleeping beauty syndrome which, at it’s worst, has left her sleeping for up to three weeks, waking up only to eat junk food, drink and go to the toilet. The condition got so bad that at one point she was kicked out of university for falling asleep during her exams, but has now been given a second chance.
She 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. Rhoda was dismissed from De Montfort University in Leicester last year after missing a number of coursework deadlines and half of her exams because she was asleep. It wasn’t until after she was kicked out that she finally got a diagnosis from a GP in September.
‘My friends say they can tell when I have an episode coming on because my mood changes,’ said Rhoda ‘I get worked up and my behaviour changes drastically.’
Thankfully, the university acknowledged Rhoda’s ‘exceptional case’ and have allowed her to re-take her second year of studies. Rhoda, who lives in Leicester, slept for over 60 hours in just three days during her last episode about three months ago. She typically snacks on junk food during nap breaks, causing her to put on weight. As a child, Rhoda was diagnosed with hyper insomnia – characterised by tiredness – and struggled to cope with life at school. She would fall asleep in the study area and found it difficult to join in with sports due to her constant tiredness. As an adult, she says it does leave her feeling ‘depressed’ sometimes as she misses out on a lot and struggles with social isolation.
She added: ‘I forced myself to go to school. I didn’t get teased but I found it very frustrating.’ Rhoda has learnt how to manage her condition better now she finally has an understanding of it. Living alone at university, she manages her symptoms the best she can independently and is not seen on a regular basis by doctors. She is keen to move on to the next chapter of her life, knowing now that people with Kleine-Levin Syndrome often grow out of it eventually. She added: ‘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. ‘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.’