When Dean Deligiannis was a 1 ½, his mother, Angela, noticed he was snoring at night.
“One night, I was listening to him and it seemed that he would actually stop breathing for eight to 10 seconds and then resume with a loud snore,” she says. “Sometimes he would even whimper and cry a bit in his sleep.”
He also would take two long naps during the day and would sweat profusely while he slept.
Deligiannis mentioned the snoring to Dean’s pediatrician at a routine wellness visit, who referred him to a pediatric ENT in DuPage County. After a sleep study and other tests, the doctor recommended an adenoidectomy to remove his enlarged adenoids.
A few months after his surgery, he had a follow-up sleep study to make sure his Obstructive
Sleep Apnea was resolved.
Although it was improved, it wasn’t resolved. A second follow-up sleep study a few months later revealed episodes of Central Sleep Apnea and his doctors referred the family to the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Hari Bandla, associate professor of pediatrics and chief of pediatric sleep medicine at Comer Children‘s, says up to 25 percent of children experience sleep difficulties.
The doctors at Comer Children’s Hospital take a multidisciplinary approach, working with a team that includes a board-certified pediatric sleep specialist, clinical psychologist and pediatric otolaryngologist.
They work together to create a treatment plan unique for each child. Treatment plans may include behavioral modification techniques, medication, removal of the tonsil and adenoids, and/or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy.
Bandla discovered that Dean suffered not from Central Sleep Apnea, but Periodic Limb Movement, which meant Dean would move his legs in his sleep, causing him to wake up and then take several seconds to settle back down. At first glance, the “settling back down” can look like Central Apnea.
Doctors suggested Dean be tested for iron deficiency, which can cause the Periodic Limb Movement.
“Sure enough, Dean’s iron stores were low,” Deligiannis says. “It seemed that we had finally gotten to the root of the problem.”
After taking iron supplements for a few months, a follow-up sleep study showed virtually all of his apnea issues had been resolved.
“Dean was on supplemental iron for about six months total, and after a few checks, it seemed that his levels were holding,” his mom says. “He is no longer taking extra iron, but I do still make sure he takes a children’s vitamin with iron each day.”
Today, Dean is a bright, happy, energetic, 6-year-old boy who never stops talking, his mother says.
“We are glad we didn’t ignore Dean’s symptoms,” she says.
Poor sleep can create behavioral and cognitive problems and in some cases, children are labeled with ADHD in school. Untreated sleep apnea can cause heart and lung problems over time.
Dean now sleeps quietly and soundly through the night, with no snoring, restlessness or sweating.
“He is doing great in school and is happy, healthy and active,” she says. “If Dr. Bandla had not made the connections he did, we may very well have put Dean through an unnecessary MRI and struggled with putting a 3-year-old on a CPAP machine for the rest of his life. We are so grateful to Dr. Bandla for getting to the bottom of Dean’s sleep apnea. He and his office staff are wonderful with children and Dean always felt very comfortable under his care.”