CPAP and biPAP Machines – What Do They Do and How do They Differ?

The two types of machines that are used to treat sleep apnea are CPAP machines and BiPAP machines. Sleep apnea causes you to lose oxygen during the night when you stop breathing, which is dangerous and leads to much bigger problems down the line. There are two types of sleep apnea – Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea. The differences in these two types of sleep apnea is often treated by these two types of machines because of the specific needs.

The CPAP machine was invented in 1981 by an Australian Professor named Colin Sullivan, and it stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. Just as the name implies, it administers one level of air pressure at all times and is used to keep the airways open. For this reason, it is used to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

The BiPAP machine didn't come about until about 10 years after the development of the CPAP machine, and it is a little more complicated. BiPAP stands for bi-level positive airway pressure, which means it changes pace between two set air pressures. When you breathe in, it administers the higher level of air pressure and a lower amount when you exhale. Usually, BiPAP machines are used to treat Central Sleep Apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when the muscles in your throat relax to the point where your throat narrows and closes intermittently while you're sleeping. You might not realize you have this problem, at least not right away. Most of the time, it takes someone else to tell you you are snoring in your sleep, sound like you're gasping for air or if you seem to stop breathing all together. When you start using a CPAP machine to fix this problem, you will start waking up in the morning feeling more refreshed than you have in a long time.

Central Sleep Apnea is less common than Obstructive Sleep Apnea and it occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the lungs to continue breathing properly while you are sleeping. You can stop breathing for as long as ten seconds every so often throughout the night. Since the BiPAP machine flows more with your natural breathing pattern, it will keep you breathing properly and prevent the longer breathing gaps that usually come along with Central Sleep Apnea.

These machines are generally lightweight and easy to transport if you are traveling and planning to spend the night somewhere else. The face mask that is used with these machines come in different sizes and can be adjusted for maximum comfort.

Since you will be moving around and shifting from one side to the other in your sleep, the face mask is equipped with a soft elastic strap that goes behind your head, and sometimes under your chin. This mask on your face and the straps on your head might bother you at first, but you will get used to them over time, and you will eventually forget that it's even there.

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

2 thoughts on “CPAP and biPAP Machines – What Do They Do and How do They Differ?”

  • Milton I Mustian

    I am a 100% disabled vet with parkinsons disease & My tremors come unexpected.I have parkinsons drool also which goes into mask and wakes Me up. I usually get 3 to 5 hours sleep because of tremors & drool.VA can't tell Me what to do for this,Mask is very uncomfortable! Thanks for any suggestions! Milt

    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman February 28, 2019 at 4:59 am

      There are many different types of masks available you might try different kinds. They even have some that are just nose pillow types. Give us a call, and we can talk to you about what is available. You can reach us at 888-360-9628 or if you prefer [email protected]


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