Which is Right for Your Sleep Apnea – CPAP or BiPAP?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that many people have, which causes them to either abruptly stop breathing while they are sleeping, or take abnormally shallow breaths. It can be pretty mild in most people who have it, and most of the time it doesn't require any special treatment.

However, if it's starting to affect you in your waking life, you will need to look into getting treatment. The main way of treating moderate to severe sleep apnea is with a CPAP or BiPAP machine. These machines are used while you sleep, and function like an air pillow in your airways. Air pressure comes through a mask from the CPAP or BiPAP machine, to make sure your throat never closes while you sleep.

Sleep apnea can make you feel tired all day because it disrupts your deep sleep. When you stop breathing, you most likely will not wake up, you'll just be jolted into the lighter stage of sleep, where you won't get as much rest. The lack of deep sleep, along with the lack of oxygen you get from the interruption in your breathing, can cause headaches and fatigue during the day.

How Are CPAP and BiPAP Machines Different?

A CPAP machine specifically delivers the same constant air pressure. This is the machine that is most often used to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which is the most common type of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is when the weakened throat muscles collapse. A constant rush of air keep them open, and you can still breathe in and out against the air from the CPAP machine.

A BiPAP machine has two different air pressures that alternate, one for inhalation, and one for exhalation. Some people may have difficulty exhaling against the one constant pressure, so the BiPAP machine can be timed to deliver a lower air pressure, which is much easier to exhale against.

Why Might Someone Need a BiPAP Machine?

If you have low oxygen levels on a regular basis or need a strong air pressure for inhalation, then a BiPAP machine might be what you need. You might also get a BiPAP machine after using a CPAP machine that didn't help your sleep apnea.

BiPAP can also be the answer for those with cardiopulmonary disorders, like congestive heart failure, lung disorders or certain neuromuscular disorders.

What is CPAP with C-Flex?

If you only need a small drop in air pressure to exhale against, you can use CPAP Machine with C-Flex. If your doctor determines that you need an exhalation pressure up to 4 cm, you will still need to use a BiPAP machine, since C-Flex only goes to 3 cm.

If you suspect that you have slept apnea, or it seems to have gotten worse, tell your doctor so you can discuss the use of a CPAP or BiPAP machine. Your doctor may want to do a sleep study to see if it will help you, and which settings you will need.

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.

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