Is this a new medical problem, and why do humans have it?
Humans are the only animals known to have this condition. Sleep disordered breathing and Obstructive Sleep Apnea have been around for many years. However, until recently proper diagnosis and treatment was limited. As both the medical and dental community realize the seriousness of Sleep disordered breathing and Obstructive Sleep Apnea, patients are now starting to receive appropriate treatment.
It is speculated that our faces have become more flat, relative to other mammals and primates, in order to develop the necessary facial structure for speech. Thus, humans have become prone to this serious disorder.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can affect anyone, but certain craniofacial profiles (shape of jaw and head) can make some people more susceptible to the disease. Weight gain and obesity also increase fat and other tissue around the airway which creates pressure that can collapse the airway and make it unstable, leading to higher rates of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in obese or overweight patients. The prevalence of OSA also increases with age and loss of muscle tone, but the disease can affect a person of any age, size, or weight.