CPAP vs. BiPAP

A CPAP machine is used to treat sleep apnea by giving continuous positive airway pressure and is specifically used to treat sleep apnea. A BiPAP machine is an apparatus that is used to help people inhale more air into their lungs and can be used to treat a variety of breathing disorders. Both machines have three parts –  the machine itself, hosing, and a mask to deliver the air pressure.

What Does a BiPAP Machine Do?

A BiPAP machine provides two levels of air pressure, one of which is inspiratory positive airway pressure, which is applied when the individuals inhales. This is a high level of air pressure. The other level of air pressure is expiratory positive airway pressure, which is a low level of air pressure that is applied when the individual exhales.

What Does a CPAP Machine Do?

The CPAP machine delivers one level of air pressure throughout the night. This level may change if the individual is using an auto-pressure CPAP machine, but with all CPAPs, just one level of air pressure will be given. This air pressure treats obstructive sleep apnea in that the airways are kept open and they are not narrowed, meaning the individual can breathe easily without obstruction.

Both machines deliver air pressure that is measured in centimeters of water. A CPAP machine delivers between 4-20 cm of air pressure, whilst a BiPAP machine delivers between 20 and 30cm of air pressure.

Pros and Cons of BiPAP

Because BiPAP machines deliver a level of low air pressure when the individual exhales, it can often be more comfortable for the user wearing the mask than a CPAP device that only delivers one level of air pressure. Exhaling requires less pressure, so the bi-level machines offer less pressure, meaning that the side effects of using the machine such as a sore throat are also less than with a traditional CPAP.

BiPAP is also used to treat those who have other respiratory disorders, including asthma and COPD, and it’s ideal for users who have cardiopulmonary disorders and neuromuscular disorders. It’s also used to treat individuals with central sleep apnea and, because it delivers such a high level of air pressure, it’s very helpful for sufferers of very severe obstructive sleep apnea.

BiPAP machines can cause side effects in some individuals and these are not to be ignored. Some of these side effects include headaches, rhinitis, a runny nose, migraines, and indigestion. The pressure settings of a BiPAP machine also have to be constantly monitored which can make it a time-consuming device to use.

Pros and Cons of CPAP

CPAP has been shown to be incredibly effective in treating obstructive sleep apnea. It’s very safe to use and it’s highly customizable, so you can use the fittings and apparatus of your choice. You can also adjust the level of pressure to suit you and CPAP can be used safely alongside other treatments.

However, tolerance for CPAP can be quite low, particularly in individuals with anxiety problems, as the size of the mask on the face can make you feel very claustrophobic. In these cases, patients usually have to be treated with anti-anxiety medication.

CPAP can also cause irritation on the face along with other side effects, such as headaches, stomach problems and nasal congestion.

BiPAP or CPAP

Whether you choose BiPAP or CPAP really depends on your sleep apnea problems and how severe your apnea is. Although tolerance is typically higher for users of BiPAP than for users of CPAP, BiPAP isn’t really suitable for individuals with only mild sleep apnea, so it does depend on your individual medical problem.

Ask your doctor for more information about BiPAP and CPAP and talk through your options with them before you make a choice one way or the other about your treatment.