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CPAP and BiPAP: Which One is Best For You?

CPAP machine for sleep apnea

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.

What You Should Know About CPAP

What is CPAP?

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. 

How Does It Work?

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.

Who Uses It?

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.

How Big Are CPAP Machines?

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.

What You Should Know About BiPAP

What is BiPAP?

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). 

How Does It Work?

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.

Who Uses It?

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.

How Big Are BiPAP Machines?

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.

Man using sleep apnea treatment

CPAP or BiPAP: Which One is Better?

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).

Summary

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. 

Recommended Products

Philips DreamStation CPAP with Humidifier and Heated Tube

DreamStation CPAP with Heated Tube and Humidifier

Respironics DreamStation Go CPAP Machine

Respironics DreamStation Go CPAP Machine

DreamStation CPAP Pro With Humidifier

DreamStation CPAP Pro with Humidifier

Dreamstation CPAP Pro

Philips DreamStation CPAP Pro

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37 comments on “CPAP and BiPAP: Which One is Best For You?”

  1. Greetings from Idaho! I'm bored at work so I decided to browse your website on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the information you present here and can't wait to take a look when I get home. I'm amazed at how fast your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I'm not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, great site!|

  2. CPAP and BiPAP both are invented for different works. As you mentioned above that CPAP machines are primarily used to treat obstructive sleep apnea, while BiPAP machines are used to treat central sleep apnea.

  3. My guy refuses to use his CPAP as every time he does he ends up completely stuffed up, his is new and so it shouldn’t be dirty! What might be his issue? Settings?

  4. Guys it’s like you are looking so hard to find something wrong. Accept your sleep specialist order and quit trying to be smarter then them. I have looked at to many responses and it appears we as laymen are way smarter than the specialist. Let’s follow what they recommend and if it doesn’t work have a one on one. Whenever you post crappy stuff you are really hurting so many people because it scares them. Really stupid I say try what they say and if not working have a good sit down talk with your doctor. They are experts and will adjust setting to make you comfortable. Usually nothing works on first try. They will get it right. More people die from non compliance then a doctor not doing the right setting. Look you can just pull the mask off if it doesn’t feel right. So all these so called experts you are reading is only giving you anxiety and not wanting you you to comply. Go through this with me. Starting in a couple of weeks. Have done cpac but I need bipac I’ll be here for you on both.
    Michael
    Kmhbc@aol.com

  5. I had an in house sleep study, they said I was having quite a bit of leg movements and 45 apneic events per hour. They set my rate at 14 PEEP. They also said it was "mixed" apnea (part central and part obstructive). She said I was not getting any REM sleep. I continue to have a high AHI (12-19/hr.) and feel as though I am still not resting. I feel like I am not exhaling completely. Should I inquire with my physician about bipap? I am thinking that raising my CPAP rate will make it even more difficult to exhale?

  6. WTF..I have been using a CPAP religiously for 9 years. of the nine i think the first year and a half i was benefiting from it. I have complained for the rest of the time trying to get a test with the BIPAP to no avail. what can i do or say to make this happen?

  7. I currently use a CPAP and suffer from extreme bloating. Even with the water tank in use I suffer with a dry mouth and occasional dizziness. My machine is “auto set” and apparently is not adjustable. Is this correct ?

    1. I have a bipap and in the past had a cpap. They both record all your sleeping patterns and are monitored by my sleep specialist on if its working or not. I find that since changing to bipap i sleep so much better

    1. No, but the opposite is true. If maximum and minimum inhalation and exhalation pressures are set the same on a BiPAP machine you've effectively turned it into a more expensive CPAP machine. One thing that isn't mentioned here is that BiPAP is also used to treat central sleep apnea. This is where the brain literally forgets to tell the body to breathe. I don't know why using two different pressures helps with central sleep apnea, I just know that I have both central and obstructive apnea and my BiPAP machine finally lets me get restful sleep.

  8. I don’t have enough sleep because of sleep apnea or anxiety and depression. How do I distinguish?. Need help. Wake up min 2 times per night.

    1. Have your doctor send you to a sleep specialist. They may prescribe a sleep study, which should be done in a hospital or sleep center rather than at home. The home tests are much more convenient but do not provide the physician with ALL the information for a proper diagnosis.

    2. I'm having the same issue. I have had a sleep study and have been diagnosed with OSAS but I cannot acclimate myself to the CPAP due to anxiety and insomnia.

    1. Hello Anonymous my experience with not getting any results from the Cpap and having Insomnia literally took me 7 years and 5 doctor's before I was properly diagnosed with Sleep Apnea and Narcolepsy and I was placed on a Bipap machine and along with my meds for periodicSleep Apea I have been given meds specifically for Narcolepsy. So just keep hounding your doctor for another sleep study or dont be embarrassed to get 2nd 3rd or 4th opinoon
      Good luck!!

  9. I just got the (mask) and tried it last night. I have the mask that just covers my noise, but I could only use it for 15min. I feel like I just can’t enough air and find myself taking deep breaths and begin to panic. It’s like a suffocating feeling. Any suggestions? Thank you

    1. That just happened to me for the first time this week...I thought I may have the humidification up too high...has not happened since

  10. Please keep in mind if you dont have anything but medicaid, these sleep study hospitals and clinics will say you need a c-pap just to get paid, when you truly cannot use a c-pap and need a bi-pap. at the expense of your brain and entire body including all your organs eventually shutting down completely, and sometimes even death while sleeping. I know this because after nearly 4 years of fighting to get what i need and still not having the bi- pap yet, i now have no memory left and all my entire organs and health is bad.

    1. most cpap machines you can change it yourself. if you believe its that critical i would just do a utube search on the how to and get it done. push and hold which two buttons is all you need to know. hint; most only have 2 buttons.
      hope that helps

  11. I'm curious why my dr. didn't order the Bipap instead of the cpap. in reading it looks like the bipap would have been better suited for me, since i do have COPD, and had lung cancer in 2013 with the removal of lower left lobe of my lung. a bit confused

    1. BiPap is considerably more expensive and needs more monitoring than is considered safe in a home. CPAP is generally set it and leave it.

  12. what happens if you can't stand stuff on your face but really need something to help you breathe? is oxygen better or cpap machine I have copd .. I wake up lots of times at nite with a mouth so dry tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth and I can't breathe... mouth so dry I can't swallow either.. so what next?

  13. Many people used to find bipap more comfortable than cpap. That was during the olden days. Now, the new CPAP machines have settings that allow them to be more comfortable. C-flex and similar technologies have revolutionized how we make cpap more comfortable for patients.

    1. S-MODE is spontaneous mode and is the normal, default mode no changes to rate or anything.
      ST-MODE is spontaneous timed mode. this mode will kick in an extra breath if the patient's respiratory rate falls below the set "back up rate."
      T-MODE is timed mode. this mode is almost like a ventilator in that it automatically gives the patient the exact number of breaths that is programmed, or input.

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