CPAP and BiPAP are the most popular sleep apnea treatments that offer the potential of a rapid solution to pauses in breathing during sleep (also known as sleep apnea). If you have sleep apnea, it is likely that your physician has discussed one or both of these sleep apnea treatments. Many patients wonder if one is better than the other. Find out the differences between BiPAP and CPAP and which one is best for you by taking a look through the information below.
CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It is the most popular sleep apnea treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It uses air pressure generated by a machine, delivered through a tube into a mask that fits over the nose or mouth.
CPAP therapy uses a CPAP machine designed to deliver air pressure through the nostrils into the back of the throat in order to keep the airway open. The pressure is adjustable. There are several potential modifications to the way the air can be delivered in order to keep the airway open during sleep.
CPAP therapy is used amongst people with severe breathing problems during sleep. It is the most recommended sleep apnea treatment for patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea because they are unable to receive enough air to their lungs. In addition to adults, this sleep apnea treatment is used for infants as well. Infants whose lungs have not fully developed will be placed on CPAP therapy in order to have air blown into their lungs.
Not all CPAP machines are the same size or weight. Each product varies, but generally, they are fairly small and portable. Choosing which size is right for you depends on where you’ll be using it. If you’ll only be using it at home, a bigger CPAP machine may be doable. If you plan on traveling with it, purchase a more compact option.
BiPAP refers to Bilevel or two-level Positive Airway Pressure. Like CPAP, this sleep apnea treatment works by sending air through a tube into a mask that fits over the nose. While CPAP generally delivers a single pressure, BiPAP delivers two: an inhale pressure and an exhale pressure. These two pressures are known as inhalation positive airway pressure (IPAP) and exhalation positive airway pressure (EPAP).
The BiPAP machine usually has two settings and the effort when inhaling and exhaling is monitored. When the person sleeping doesn’t breathe for a programmed period of time, the BiPAP may be set to deliver a breath. This is usually set as a minimum breath or ‘back-up rate’ that sets a minimum breaths per minute (BPM). This setting is designed so that the patient breathes a set frequency of breaths per minute.
This sleep apnea treatment is often used with individuals who need extra respiratory support. It is often prescribed for patients with congestive heart failure/coronary artery disease and pulmonary or neurologic medical disorders. Patients with neuromuscular disorders may also benefit from the pressure differential of a BiPAP device.
New BiPAP machines are similar in size to CPAP devices, which is about the size of a lunchbox. They’re designed to be silent so as not to interrupt the sleeper. Most BiPAP units offer a humidifier option to prevent the drying of the mucosal membranes.
Note: BiPAP is a trademark of Respironics and is a promotional partner of ASA.
CPAP and BiPAP machines look similar, have the same attachments, and both use the same CPAP mask and supplies. However, each sleep apnea treatment is used for a special purpose and has its own advantages. CPAP machines are primarily used to treat obstructive sleep apnea, while BiPAP machines are used to treat central sleep apnea, complex sleep apnea, or COPD.
As far as cost, BiPAP historically has been more expensive than CPAP which may sway consumers whose sleep apnea can be treated with either.
The comfort and liking of each machine depends on the individual, but generally, BiPAP is often used when CPAP is not tolerated by the user. One of the many advantages of the BiPAP machine is that the strain is decreased during expiration. This limits the amount of energy expended during exhalation. In other words, it is easier to breathe out with BiPAP than with CPAP.
For those that haven’t preferred CPAP in the past, a second try might be worth it because there are new technologies that increase comfort with CPAP.
If CPAP and BiPAP aren’t the right sleep apnea treatments for you, there are other types of ventilatory support devices, including Adaptive Servo Ventilation (ASV).
CPAP and BiPAP therapies are two of the most popular sleep apnea treatments you can use to relieve symptoms. Each has its own purpose and benefits, but they only work when used for the proper condition. Consult your doctor and know the details of your specific type of sleep apnea before choosing a therapy.
© 2020 American Sleep Association.