What Is a CPAP Machine?
A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine is a medical device used to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a condition where the muscles around the airway relax and collapse during sleep, interrupting breathing dozens or even hundreds of times throughout the night. Many people with OSA snore loudly or find themselves waking up gasping for air.
CPAP therapy delivers a constant flow of air pressure into the airway, helping to keep it open and ensure you get full airflow during the night. This not only improves sleep quality, but overall quality of life, decreasing the risk for major health conditions that come with untreated sleep apnea. It’s important to note that CPAP machines are not prescribed for all types of sleep apnea, including central sleep apnea, which requires a different form of treatment.
There are several different types of CPAP devices, each with unique features and designs. Here are some of the main types:
Standard CPAP Machine
CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure, and as it delivers a fixed pressure of air throughout the night. The pressure setting is determined by a sleep specialist based on the results of your sleep study.
Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) Machine
BiPAP machines provide two different pressure levels: a higher pressure during inhalation and a lower pressure during exhalation. This is helpful for individuals who have trouble exhaling against the higher pressure of a standard CPAP machine.
Auto-Adjusting CPAP (APAP) Machine
Also known as an APAP machine or Auto CPAP machine, this type adjusts the air pressure automatically based on the patient's breathing patterns and needs. It continuously monitors the user's airflow and adjusts the pressure in real-time to provide the minimal pressure required to maintain an open airway. Many modern CPAP machines now have APAP capabilities, but the term ‘CPAP’ is so universal that it’s how most people refer to all types of machines.
Travel CPAP Machine
These are smaller and more portable CPAP machines designed to allow people to continue their sleep apnea therapy on the go. They are compact, lightweight and sometimes battery powered. Typically travel machines are not covered by insurance.
Only your healthcare provider can determine which type of CPAP machine and mask is most suitable for your specific diagnosis. As you settle into CPAP therapy, you may notice side effects like dry mouth or continued snoring, but don’t worry, these types of challenges are quite common and can be easily overcome with the right CPAP mask, optional heated humidifiers and other CPAP supplies.