Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can stop your breathing, effectively making it harder for you to relax and get a good night’s sleep. Fortunately, there are treatments to help you breathe steadily and continuously throughout the night, and that’s where PAP therapy comes in.
PAP stands for Positive Airway Pressure, and it works by providing a stream of compressed air to support your airways. PAP therapy is a very common and effective treatment, but it can be confusing which kind is right for you. There are two main types of PAP therapy for sleep apnea patients, BiPAP and CPAP.
Both kinds of PAP therapy involve a device, a tube, and a mask, but don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds—the device takes air from the room and pushes it through your face mask to provide oxygen when you can’t catch your breath at night, allowing you to return to normal breathing.
The key difference between BiPAP and CPAP therapy is the air pressure levels. Our post will help you understand the differences between BiPAP and CPAP, and give you the confidence to choose which one suits you best.
What is BiPAP Therapy?
BiPAP stands for Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure, and during BiPAP therapy, the device pushes air into your lungs and helps them expand. While the most common reason to use a BiPAP machine is for central sleep apnea, other breathing conditions, such as pulmonary disease, can be helped through the use of a BiPAP machine as well.
BiPAP machines have two different air pressure settings, one for when you inhale and one for when you exhale. The low-pressure setting is for when you exhale so you don’t have to push against the air.
BiPAP machines have lower pressure levels than CPAP machines because they are used to treat central sleep apnea, which is when your brain doesn’t send the right signals to your muscles that control your breathing. CPAP machines treat obstructive sleep apnea, which is when you can’t get oxygen because of upper airway obstruction. This means CPAP machines need higher pressure levels to force air through the obstruction.
Who uses it?
Typically, doctors recommend BiPAP machines over CPAP machines for people who suffer from congestive heart failure, pulmonary disease, and central sleep apnea.
What are the benefits of BiPAP Therapy?
- Reduced snoring
- Better sleep
- Humidifier options
- Lower pressure
- Reduced risk of medical conditions, such as heart attacks
What are the possible side effects?
- Eye irritation
- Nasal congestion
- Dry mouth
- Skin irritation
What is CPAP Therapy?
Similar to BiPAP, CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, and these machines provide similar respiratory support as BiPAP machines. However, the main difference between the two is CPAP machines provide a constant, steady flow of oxygen with the same pressure levels throughout the night.
Some users say this constant pressure makes it hard to breathe against, but others say they got used to it quickly. The different pressure levels between a BiPAP and CPAP machine are used to treat different symptoms. For example, CPAP machines are used for infants because they need that constant pressure to help open their lungs.
Who uses it?
This treatment is recommended over BiPAP therapy for people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP machines are also used for infants whose lungs are not fully developed.
What are the benefits of CPAP Therapy?
- Healthier heart
- Reduced snoring
- Better sleep
- Portable options
What are the possible side effects?
- Dry mouth
- Stuffy nose
- Trouble exhaling
- Local skin damage
Which One is Better: BiPAP or CPAP Therapy?
You probably noticed both treatments have pretty similar benefits and side effects, but aside from distinct pressure levels, the key difference of these machines is that they treat separate kinds of sleep apnea and medical problems.
BiPAP machines are a good option for severe sleep apnea, neuromuscular disorders, and congestive heart failure while CPAP machines are great for obstructive sleep apnea and helping children with underdeveloped lungs. Deciding which one is best is based on personal preference and why you need it.
We suggest consulting with your doctor when choosing between a BiPAP and CPAP. Below, we outline some of the things to keep in mind when picking out the right PAP therapy device.
Are you looking for something to stay home with you all the time, or do you want something you can take with you on vacation, when visiting family, or when traveling for work? CPAP machines tend to be slightly bigger than BiPAP machines, which are about the size of a lunchbox, but both come in travel-sized options.
PAP therapy machines can make noise because the machine’s motor is running constantly. However, both BiPAP and CPAP machines are rated at low decibels so you can sleep through the noise. While both are comparable to a soft whisper, a CPAP machine is slightly louder, coming in at 30 decibels, while a BiPAP machine comes in at 26. Travel-sized machines are typically the quietest because they are smaller.
There are multiple face mask options for each PAP device, such as a nasal mask or full-face mask, so finding one that fits your preference should be easy, but you might have to try a few different ones first. For example, if you sleep with your mouth open, you might find a full face mask more comfortable.
However, if you’re worried about claustrophobia, a nasal mask might be a better option. Typically, any mask design offered for the CPAP machine will also be offered for the BiPAP machine.
PAP therapy machines range from $500-$3,000 in price depending on what accessories they come with. The cost of a CPAP machine tends to be lower than a BiPAP machine. However, we suggest purchasing a PAP machine with a doctor’s prescription to save money.
PAP therapy machines have such a large range in price because of the many different options they offer. For example, a standard machine may cost $500, but a newer machine with a built-in humidifier will raise the price closer to $2,000. Additionally, added components like tube filters, cleaning supplies, and a mask will also raise the price.
Cleaning and practicing good upkeep on your machines will help them last longer and ensure you get the full benefits of PAP therapy. We recommend cleaning your machine at least twice a month because your body oils and sweat, along with regular build up from dust, can cause it to become unsanitary. Regardless of which machine you decide to buy, you should invest the time to clean it regularly.
Is it necessary to use a humidifier with CPAP?
While humidifiers can add more comfort when using a CPAP machine (by eliminating runny nose or dry mouth problems) they are not required. Humidifiers will not add or take away from the effectiveness of CPAP machines.
How many hours per night should CPAP be used?
Doctors recommend using a CPAP machine for at least 6 hours per night to reduce long-term health risks. However, it is ideal to put the mask on right before bed, and keep it on until you wake up.
How often should you clean your BiPAP machine?
You should clean your BiPAP machine at least twice a month with warm, soapy water. Disinfecting your machine is also important and should happen at least once a month. Soak your clean machine in vinegar and water for 30 minutes to disinfect it.
How long does it take to benefit from CPAP?
It normally takes a few weeks to recognize any major improvements from using a CPAP machine, especially because it can take a few days to get used to the device. However, you’ll probably notice better sleep quality almost instantly as people report less sleep deprivation after using a CPAP machine for just a few days.
Those with obstructive sleep apnea can also get a better night’s sleep by using a wedge pillow or an adjustable base to lift the upper body and help open up the airways to improve breathing. The best mattresses for those with sleep apnea are those most suited to your sleep position and body type. For example, heavier individuals typically prefer a firmer mattress, while lightweight individuals prefer a softer mattress.
Does BiPAP use water?
BiPAP machines without humidifiers do not need water. However, if your BiPAP machine has a connected humidifier or humidifier option, it will need water. A machine with a humidifier is a popular choice for a lot of people because it helps with nasal congestion and dry mouth. However, you can get a BiPAP machine without a humidifier, or just turn the humidifier option off.
BiPAP and CPAP machines are proven effective in opening airways and assisting when you’re having trouble breathing. They can also reduce snoring and nighttime disruptions. CPAP machines have one constant air pressure while BiPAP machines change their pressure levels based on inhalation and exhalation. While some people may think these machines can get in the way of sleep, they actually help improve it.
They can be portable, quiet, and you can choose a mask that best fits your preferences. Each machine treats different medical conditions and provides different levels of air pressure. If you’re unsure of which machine is best for you, talk to your doctor to get your prescribed pressure, and get on track to better sleep.
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.