When it comes to treating sleep apnea, CPAP therapy is probably the first treatment that comes to mind. What probably never comes to mind, or at least not initially, is BiPAP therapy. And these two forms of treatment have more differences than just their names.
What is the difference between CPAP and BiPAP?
The more popular treatment called continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, is when a patient diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea uses a machine throughout the night for increased air pressure to ensure airways don’t collapse. The pressure is often decided upon by a doctor after an evaluation, including a sleep study. The goal is to prevent “both apnea and snoring and should reduce the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) below 5, as well as improving the other symptoms associated with sleep apnea,” as described by Brandon Peters, MD in this VeryWell.com article.
BiPAP, or bilevel positive airway pressure, uses a similar yet still different process as CPAP. As the name suggests, bilevel therapy uses two pressures that the machine alternates between, allowing the sleeper to “breathe out against a slightly lower pressure.”
Sounds pretty similar, doesn’t it? So how can you decide which treatment is best for your sleep apnea?
Which treatment is best for my sleep apnea?
In our article “What is BiPAP Therapy? The Difference Between BiPAP and CPAP,” we further explain the how “CPAP machines deliver a steady, continuous stream of pressurized air to patient's airways to prevent them from collapsing and causing apnea events… [your doctor will] set the machine to deliver that exact amount of pressure continuously.
“CPAP machines can only be set to a single pressure that remains consistent throughout thenight. However, many CPAP machines have a ramp feature that starts off with a lower pressure setting and gradually builds to the prescribed pressure. This comfort feature simply makes the pressure at the beginning more tolerable and less immediate, once the pressure builds to the required setting, it stays at that setting for the rest of the night.”
However, some patients feel that the higher-pressure strengths are difficult to exhale against, causing discomfort. BiPAP machines will deliver only two pressure levels: the “prescribed pressure for inhalation (ipap) and a lower pressure for exhalation (epap).” This bilevel pressure settings allows the sleeper to breath more air in and out of the lungs.
Besides an alternative solution to discomforts caused by CPAP pressures, BiPAP machines are often used to treat central sleep apnea. “This condition,” as described by Dr. Peters, “is characterized by pauses in breathing without obstruction of the airway and is identified as part of a sleep study. The BiPAP device may be set to compensate for these pauses in breathing by kicking in an extra breath as needed.”
What are the best sleep machines?
Below is a list of the top five selling BiPAP and CPAP machines according to the site CPAP.com. The various features can help give you an idea of which machine will work best for your sleep habits. Of course, the best judgement in choosing the right machine will be up to you and your doctor, as most of these machines require a prescription.
DreamStation BiPAP Auto Machine – This user-friendly machine is a streamlined device about the size of a bedside alarm clock with convenient auto-adjusting pressure. Your data can be stored and viewed in more than one way so that you and your doctor can track your therapy progress.
PR System One REMStar 60 Series BiPAP Auto with Bluetooth and Heated Tube Humidifier – Manufactured by Philips Respironics, this Bluetooth-capable machine can be paired with a SleepMapper app to provide real-time data on your sleep therapy progress. An included humidifier warms your therapy air to reduce dryness and congestion.
RESmart™ BPAP 25A Auto Bi-Level Machine with RESlex and Heated Humidifier – Featuring an iCode therapy tracking, RESlex pressure relief and an included heated humidifier, this biPAP system by 3B Products is an easy-to-use machine for any sleeper.
AirCurve™ 10 VAuto BiLevel Machine with HumidAir™ Heated Humidifier – The next advancement in bi-level treatment from ResMed, the AirCurve machine automatically adjusts to the pressure you need without any worry. Pressure relief technology and an optional ClimateLineAir completes this sleek machine.
IntelliPAP BiLevel Machine with SmartCode – A versatile therapy solution for those who have high pressure needs, this machine from DeVilbiss is designed with optimized efficiency in mind. The IntelliPAP provides digital therapy reports and is deemed “one of the quietest machines on the market” paired with a five-year warranty.
AirStart™ 10 CPAP with HumidAir™ Heated Humidifier – Featuring simple yet effective features like an LCD display and SD card port, the AirStart 10 is an easy-to-use machine for any user. Weighing less than three pounds, it’s also a perfect traveling companion.
XT Fit CPAP Machine – A perfectly budget-friendly option, the XT Fit showcases a backlit display and comes with an optional heated humidifier. This sleek machine measures 5.7 x 5.1 x 3.9 inches and weighs under two pounds, ideal for packing up when you’re on the go.
PR System One REMStar 60 Series Pro CPAP Machine with Bluetooth – This machine conveniently communicates the sleeper’s nightly results through the Respironics’ Sleep Mapper app. Complete with C-Flex Plus pressure relief and an optional heated tube humidifier, the PR System One provides dependable comfort.
RESmart™ CPAP Machine with RESlex with Heated Humidifier – The RESmart machine offers luxurious features such as RESlex pressure relief, iCode remote data, 365 days of memory, auto altitude compensation and so much more. The easy to carry handle tops off this sleek machine.
Transcend© miniCPAP™ Machine – As one of the world’s smallest and lightest CPAP machine, the Transcend miniCPAP weighs less than one pound and measures under 7 x 3.5 inches for a compact device that is ideal for frequent travelers. To top it all off, this machine is compatible with any CPAP masks.
Should I use a CPAP or BiPAP machine?
Of course, whether you need a BiPAP or CPAP machine to treat your sleep apnea will be determined by your doctor and sleep technician. If you’re unsure whether you suffer from sleep apnea or not, you can always take our quick quiz and find out.
At Alaska Sleep Clinic, our doctors are well trained and experienced in the treatment of sleep disorders, including Obstructive Sleep Apnea. If you live in the Anchorage, Alaska area and want to finally get a good night’s rest, be sure to call for a free 10-minute consultation and begin your sleep treatment today.