What is the Difference Between CPAP and BiPAP Machines?

The CPAP machine is the number one treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. Its success is due to it being a near-universal treatment that can work for just about any sufferer of sleep apnea, especially after the right pressure is found for the particular user. But there is another, very similar machine known as a BiPAP machine that can serve the small but important set of users who run into issues with their CPAP machines. Both utilize nearly identical technologies that revolve around positive air pressure, and all other components are nearly identical from the mask to the hose. But if they are so similar then what is the difference between a CPAP and BiPAP machine?

CPAP Machine

The prescribed method to deal with obstructive sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure machine or CPAP for short. A CPAP helps with obstructive sleep apnea by increasing the air pressure in your airway which prevents your airway from closing. The success of the CPAP relies on it being a noninvasive treatment for sleep apnea. But it doesn’t work equally for everybody. A problem presented by CPAP machines is the very thing that allows it to work as a treatment—the air pressure is continuous meaning it stays at one prescribed setting while it remains on with CPAP machines that provide a gradual increase until the prescribed pressure is reached being an exception to the rule. The prescribed pressure can vary per individual with the average sufferer of sleep apnea hovering between a low or medium pressure but some requiring a higher than average pressure. The higher pressure will help keep their airway open but exhaling might become exceptionally difficult as the mask feels like it is pressing against their breath. Side effects such as aerophagia, mask leakage or the sensation of shortness of breath can occur when the air pressure is too high. Preventing these types of side effects for high-pressure users is specifically what a BiPAP machine is meant to do.

BiPAP Machine

A bilevel positive airway pressure machine, or BiPAP, is very similar to a CPAP machine. It is used as a noninvasive treatment for sleep apnea and utilizes positive air pressure to keep the airway from collapsing. The difference between BiPAP and CPAP machines comes from that bilevel part of the equation. Just as the word bilevel implies, the BiPAP has two levels of air pressure—one for inhaling and one for exhaling. To begin the BiPAP machine will start at the prescribed pressure, which would be the higher of the two pressures. The BiPAP machine will monitor the breath of the user, taking into account both inhaling and exhaling. The BiPAP will have an amount of time it is programmed to wait for a breath before kicking in the second pressure level. In doing so the BiPAP allows the user to exhale with less strain and continue preventing the airway from collapsing. This bi-level pressure feature of the BiPAP machine allows users to breathe comfortably all the while taking care of their obstructive sleep apnea. 

So CPAP or BiPAP?

CPAP and BiPAP Side Effects

As you now know, not much differentiates a CPAP machine from a BiPAP machine. Both reliably treat sleep apnea and give you the safe nights rest you are seeking. A CPAP machine is fine for a majority of users who fit within the prescribed low to medium range of air pressure. But if you ever feel difficulty breathing with a CPAP machine then consider talking to your doctor about a BiPAP machine. You might find your nights improved exponentially with the bi-level technology of a BiPAP machine. Even if you don’t feel like it’s entirely necessary, you should inquire especially if you feel uncomfortable with your CPAP machine. These machines should feel almost natural enough to become a nightly part of your routine. Otherwise, you can remain with your CPAP machine. Both work exceptionally at treating obstructive sleep apnea. 

CPAP and BiPAP Side Effects

CPAP and BiPAP machines are entirely safe to use and the side effects, like shortness of breath, are minimal but there can be side effects—entirely preventable side effects. As you use either your CPAP or BiPAP machine bacteria begin to build up and this bacteria can cause sickness or illness. This is one of the risks of using these machines, but it is a preventable risk. Regularly cleaning your CPAP or BiPAP machine can greatly decrease the risk of disease or illness but soap and water won’t do the job. For proper cleaning, you’ll need the Lumin CPAP cleaner.

The Lumin CPAP cleaner uses UV light, which is harmful to bacteria, to eliminate said bacteria. Since the Lumin cleans all the external components of a CPAP machine, such as the mask, the humidifier water chamber, and the hose, it can be used for BiPAP machines. 

October 15, 2019 23

A. Giudice

A Sleep Professional with over 20 years of industry experience, a healthy respect for research and a slightly sarcastic writing style.