If you’ve been diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), you may be wondering which is better: CPAP vs APAP. Well, both are effective and the machine best for you will depend on certain factors.
CPAP vs APAP
A CPAP and APAP machine are simply two of the many types of sleep apnea therapy treatments. Patients suffering from sleep apnea or another sleep disorder require sleep apnea treatment. And, using the best APAP machine or the best CPAP machine can make a world of difference in how the patient sleeps and their daily activities. It’s important, however, to determine which machine will offer you the best therapy.
Below are some distinctions of both to help you decide which will be the right fit for you.
An essential thing to know about using a CPAP machine is that it’s going to improve how you sleep and thereby improve your health almost instantly. Once you begin sleep apnea treatment with a CPAP machine, you’ll stop snoring and you’ll start to notice an improvement in your attention and focus. You’ll also realize a reduction in daytime sleepiness.
The other benefits of a CPAP machine for treating your OSA aren’t as visible; however, they’re just as important since managing your sleep apnea can reverse or prevent serious, long-term disorders such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic high blood pressure
- Risk of stroke
The term “CPAP” refers to a machine used for treating sleep apnea (mild, moderate or severe). Also referred to as a sleep apnea machine, the CPAP machine is a medical device a board-certified sleep specialist prescribes for sleep breathing disorders like sleep apnea.
“CPAP” stands for continuous positive airway pressure. It provides you with a gentle, constant flow of pressurized air to help keep your airway open while you sleep. This machine helps maintain good blood oxygen levels, helping you to breathe throughout the night.
For the best results, sleep apnea patients are expected to regularly use their CPAP machine every night, all night long. They’re not hard to use. They’re actually simple machines and technology are advancing all the time.
The CPAP machine has three primary components:
- Mask: Depending on your fit requirements and breathing issues, your CPAP mask might go over your entire nose (mouth and nose together) or over your nose only. Nasal pillows CPAP mask is another style where you insert it into your nostrils. While the masks are effective and simple to use, comfort can be challenging at times. Sometimes it will take a little trial and error to find the perfect mask that will help you stay compliant with your CPAP therapy.
- Hose: The CPAP hose is around six feet long and it attaches to the motor to the mask. They’re made especially for conveying humidified air.
- Motor: The CPAP machine that you’ll place on your bedside table is the motor. It’s a quiet, small compressor that pressurizes room temperature air. It then delivers the filtered and pressurized air through the hose and mask to your airway. Many individuals prefer using the humidifier the motor comes with to keep their mouth, throat, and nose from becoming dry.
Each individual’s treatment needs can vary. Some patients do well with CPAP machine therapy while others experience better results with an APAP machine.
“APAP” stands for Automatic Positive Airway Pressure. It’s similar to CPAP therapy. It treats sleep apnea continually in a non-invasive manner.
The general principle behind APAP and CPAP is the same in both: filtered, pressurized air keeping your airway from collapsing while you sleep, allowing you to experience undisturbed breathing.
By using an APAP machine, you can breathe without apnea episodes (these are breathing cessations leading to multiple awakenings per hour during the night). APAP machines can also be used as a treatment for upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS), a condition that doesn’t block your airway, but rather narrows it.
Like the CPAP machine, the APAP machine consists of three primary components:
- Mask: You wear the mask you wear while you sleep.
- Motor: The motor that filters, pressurizes and humidifies room air.
- Tube: The tube the pressurized air travels through until it reaches your mask.
Depending on how severe your sleep apnea is and any underlying health problems you might have affecting your breathing, you might benefit from one level of air pressure over another.
CPAP Machine vs. APAP Machines for Sleep Apnea
Individuals might have Sleep Apnea or OSA, but that doesn’t mean they all will benefit from the same type of treatment. Their breathing issues might be different, requiring a different treatment.
If you have many breathing issues and changes while you sleep, such as positional sleep apnea where you have worse apneas while sleeping on your back, you may benefit more with from an APAP machine vs. a CPAP machine.
Some people require a significant pressure difference while in REM sleep only and these individuals may benefit from APAP therapy over traditional fixed CPAP Therapy.
If you have the same constant breathing issue while you sleep, a CPAP machine may be a better sleep apnea treatment. Some patients begin their therapy with a CPAP machine and after finding it’s not working well for them, they switch to an APAP machine.
CPAP pressure is set optimally to get rid of obstructive apneas (these cause your airway to become obstructed entirely). For many individuals, CPAP is all they need. However, APAP provides the exact amount of air the patient needs to eliminate certain types of episodes. Because of this, you can reduce the average pressure in APAP therapy more than in CPAP therapy, making APAP more comfortable for the patients.
For instance, if you’re having flow limitation where your airway is obstructed only partially, A CPAP machine will give you more air than you require to eliminate the flow limitation. The additional pressure can be disturbing to some people. The pressure in CPAP can also be too high for patients when they’re trying to fall asleep. The comfortably-reduced pressure with APAP therapy helps increase therapy compliance.
Choosing Between a CPAP Machine vs. APAP Machine
Both therapies are excelling for addressing OSA. Which machine is best for you will depend on certain factors such as:
- Sleep position
- Your propensity for colds or allergies
- Types and variability of breathing obstructions
- Your need for a change in pressure over a long time period
- The severity of other respiratory conditions
If you think you have OSA or if your doctor handed you an OSA diagnosis and you’re using a machine that’s not addressing your breathing requirements, be sure to talk with the sleep professional to help find the right machine for your breathing disorder whether that be a CPAP machine, APAP machine or any of the other types of sleep apnea machines.
Here at CPAP.com, we offer you an abundance of resources to help you choose the best sleep apnea therapy for you. For instance, take a look at our:
If you need more assistance, our CPAP experts are standing by to assist you. Use our live chat, email us at email@example.com, or call us toll-free at 1-800-356-5221.
David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.