CPAP Machine Buying Guide

CPAP Machine Buying Guide - How to Select and Buy a CPAP Machine

With numerous CPAP machines on the market offering varying features, choosing the one suitable for you can feel confusing. Thankfully, multiple CPAP machines mean there's undoubtedly one that suits your needs. It's just a matter of doing some research to find it. Here, we'll go over what you need to know when deciding on your CPAP machine.

Make sure you have a prescription.

Before beginning the search for your ideal machine, you'll need a prescription. If you don't already have one, talk to your healthcare provider about undergoing a sleep study. During the sleep study, a sleep technologist measures your breathing, heart rate, oxygen levels, and how often you quit breathing (apnea) throughout the night. Your provider will specify which type of machine you need and a set pressure to wear while you sleep. Once your healthcare provider reviews your results and determines you have sleep apnea, you'll likely get a prescription for a CPAP machine.

Types of CPAP Machines

There are different CPAP machines to choose from, and the one you choose will depend on your prescription. First, let's review how CPAP machines work and then look at the different types.

CPAP machines are continuous positive airway pressure machines that deliver continuous pressure while sleeping. This constant pressure is crucial for people with sleep apnea since their upper airways become obstructed by the tongue and tissues in the throat and upper airway. The pressure from CPAP machines holds your airways open, allowing air to flow in and out of your lungs freely.

However, not all CPAP machines deliver one constant pressure. Some devices adjust the pressure throughout the night, and others supply two pressures.

Here's how these CPAP machines differ:
  • Standard or Fixed CPAP Machines: Standard CPAP machines, also known as fixed CPAP machines, are the most common and deliver only one continuous pressure while inhaling and exhaling.
  • Auto-Adjusting CPAP Machines: Auto-adjusting CPAP machines, also called automatic CPAPs, work the same way as fixed CPAP, but with one difference. These machines detect when apnea (a pause in breathing) will occur and adjust the pressure to keep the airways open. Then, the pressure declines to a comfortable level. Automatic CPAPs are ideal for people that cannot tolerate the continuous pressure of fixed CPAPs.
  • BiPAP and BiLevel Machines: BiPAP stands for bilevel positive airway pressure. BiPAP machines deliver two pressures, one on inhalation and another pressure level on exhalation. BiPAP machines come in fixed and auto-adjusting models.

Choosing a CPAP Machine

Once your healthcare provider prescribes a pressure setting and tells you whether you need CPAP or BiPAP, you can decide which other features are most important.

Please note: Consult your healthcare provider before purchasing if you're unsure which type of machine you'll need or have questions about the pressure prescribed.

If you're unsure where to begin, it can help to look at leading CPAP machine manufacturers, including DeVilbiss, ResMed, and Respironics, which offer some of the most comfortable and affordable units. These leading manufacturers often provide some of the best features.

When reviewing these features, ask yourself:
  • Will you need humidified air?
  • What is the noise level?
  • Will you travel with it?
  • Can you tolerate continuous pressure?

CPAP Machine Features to Consider

  • Portability: If you're planning on traveling or leaving your home for a night, consider a small, portable CPAP machine you can take with you. There are numerous portable CPAP machines to choose from, and many of them include a travel bag. When deciding on a portable unit, pay attention to its size and weight, ensuring it's the right size for you. Also, make sure your device is FAA-approved for airline travel. Most portable units are, and you can find out for sure online or in the user's manual.
  • Humidification: Not all CPAP machines include a humidifier, but humidification is essential to prevent dry nasal passages, dry mouth, bloody noses, sinus infections, and other CPAP side effects.
  • Noise Level: While manufacturers design CPAP machines to run quietly, some units are noisier than others. Before purchasing, check the manufacturer's website or user manual for the noise level in decibels. A machine that's 30 decibels runs as quietly as a whisper, so look for one 30 decibels or less.
  • Ramp-up: Check which devices offer a ramp-up option when considering a standard CPAP machine. This feature provides comfort, starting with low pressure that slowly increases until it reaches your prescribed pressure setting, which allows you to fall asleep quickly and comfortably.
  • Smart Data Recording: Some CPAP machines record important data through Bluetooth or wifi, and some offer smartphone apps. Depending on the device, you'll see data about your sleep cycles, periods of apnea, snoring, mask leaks, and pressure changes. This information allows your healthcare provider to adjust your settings as needed.

Cost of CPAP Machines

Generally, CPAP machines cost somewhere between $500-$800 but range from around $300 to over $1,000. The lower the price, the more basic device you'll get. More expensive devices offer more features, so deciding which features you're looking for based on your prescription and personal needs are crucial. Auto-adjusting machines and BiPAPs are usually higher in price than standard CPAP devices.

How to Purchase a CPAP Machine

The easiest way to purchase a CPAP machine is online. Researching different units online allows you to compare features, view user manuals, and find answers to your questions.

If purchasing a CPAP machine using insurance, your options might be limited. Many people choose to avoid insurance and pay cash to get the exact device that suits their needs. It's good to check with your insurance company before purchasing to see which options they give you. Some private insurance companies offer reimbursement for devices purchased online.

CPAP Machine Lifespan

New CPAP machines last for about eight years, depending on the manufacturer and how well you clean and care for your device.

It's critical to clean your device correctly, following the manufacturer's recommendations for cleaning. Generally, taking apart the machine weekly for cleaning is recommended. If you're sick, clean it more often to eliminate germs.


Updated: May 27, 2022

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