One of my patients just recently lost their 35 year old son with a sudden massive heart attack. upon autopsy it was revealed that the heart attack was caused secondary to obstructive sleep apnea. I told his mother that I would write this article to get the information to the public and hopefully save a life. To make sure all of the informaiton I used was accurate I am using information from a health guide website.

Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Periods of not breathing (apnea)
  • Awakening not rested in the morning
  • Abnormal daytime sleepiness, including falling asleep at inappropriate times
  • Morning headaches
  • Recent weight gain
  • Limited attention
  • Memory loss
  • Poor judgment
  • Personality changes
  • Lethargy

Obstructive sleep apnea

In normal conditions, the muscles of the upper part of the throat keep this passage open to allow air to flow into the lungs. These muscles usually relax during sleep, but the passage remains open enough to permit the flow of air. Some individuals have a narrower passage, and during sleep, relaxation of these muscles causes the passage to close, and air cannot get into the lungs. Loud snoring and labored breathing occur. When complete blockage of the airway occurs, air cannot reach the lungs.

For reasons that are still unclear, in deep sleep, breathing can stop for a period of time (often more than 10 seconds). These periods of lack of breathing, or apneas, are followed by sudden attempts to breathe. These attempts are accompanied by a change to a lighter stage of sleep. The result is fragmented sleep that is not restful, leading to excessive daytime drowsiness.

Older obese men seem to be at higher risk, though as many as 40% of people with obstructive sleep apnea are not obese. Nasal obstruction, a large tongue, a narrow airway and certain shapes of the palate and jaw seem also to increase the risk. A large neck or collar size is strongly associated with obstructive sleep apnea. Ingestion of alcohol or sedatives before sleep may predispose to episodes of apnea.

The classic picture of obstructive sleep apnea includes episodes of heavy snoring that begin soon after falling asleep. The snoring proceeds at a regular pace for a period of time, often becoming louder, but is then interrupted by a long silent period during which no breathing is taking place (apnea). The apnea is then interrupted by a loud snort and gasp and the snoring returns to its regular pace. This behavior recurs frequently throughout the night.

During the apneas, the oxygen level in the blood falls. Persistent low levels of oxygen (hypoxia) may cause many of the daytime symptoms. If the condition is severe enough, pulmonary hypertension may develop leading to right-sided heart failure or cor pulmonale.


It is important to emphasize that often, the person who has obstructive sleep apnea does not remember the episodes of apnea during the night. The predominant symptoms are usually associated with excessive daytime sleepiness due to poor sleep during the night. Often, family members, especially spouses, witness the periods of apnea. Symptoms that may be observed include:

Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:

  • Hyperactive behavior, especially in children
  • High blood pressure
  • Automatic behavior (performing actions by rote)
  • Leg swelling (if severe)

Signs and tests

A complete medical history taken by a health care practitioner is the most important diagnostic tool. Often, a survey that asks a series of questions about daytime sleepiness, sleep quality and bedtime habits is given.

A physical examination of the mouth, neck and throat (oropharynx) is important to detect abnormalities that may predispose.

Tests may include:

  • Sleep studies
  • An ECG to show arrhythmias during sleep
  • An arterial blood gases to show low oxygen or elevated carbon dioxide
  • Echocardiogram to evaluate the function of the heart
  • Thyroid function studies


The goal is to keep the airway open to prevent apneas during sleep.

Weight management (or intentional weight loss) and avoiding alcohol and sedatives at bedtime may relieve sleep apnea in some individuals. If these measures are unsuccessful in stopping sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a form of mechanical breathing assistance that involves the use of a specially-designed mask worn over the nose or nose and mouth at night, may be prescribed.

Mechanical dental devices inserted into the mouth at night to keep the jaw forward may help relieve symptoms due to mild to moderate cases. The benefit is that it is convenient and reversible. This posturing of the lower jaw more forwary opens the airway and allows for easier breathing

Surgery to remove excess tissue at the back of the throat (uvulopalatopharyngoplasty or UPPP), to remove enlarged tonsils or adenoids ( tonsillectomy), or to create an opening in the trachea to bypass the obstructed airway during sleep (tracheostomy), may be helpful if anatomical causes are present. In some people, surgery to remove blockage of the nose or upper throat may relieve sleep apnea. These options are more aggressive surgical procedures.

Please give us a call at 586-247-3500 if you have any questions or if you or your loved one would like to be evaluated to prevent this tragic situation from happening in your life. You can also email us at

Dr. Antolak treats his dental patients in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere where you are treated like a guest in the home.  His motto is to “relax while we take care of your smile”. He specializes in cosmetic dentistry, implant dentistry and general dentistry using sedation dentistry if necessary for his high fear patients. He has been treating patients for the past 21 years and is located in Shelby Township, Macomb county Michigan