What’s the average CPAP pressure setting? What pressure setting should you be using? What should you do if you snore while using a CPAP machine? The answer to these questions can be found by looking at the pressure settings for your CPAP machine. If the pressure is too low, you may experience some of the issues listed above. Find out everything you ever wanted to know about pressure settings in this article!
What is CPAP Therapy?
Every human body is unique, and every person with Sleep Apnea experiences it in a slightly different way. Because of this, Sleep Apnea therapy is not a one-size-fits-all treatment. Sleep Apnea machines come equipped with settings that sleep doctors can change to fit each patient’s needs.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy uses the power of positive air pressure to treat Sleep Apnea, a condition that causes your breathing to stop for a time while you sleep. If you have one type of Sleep Apnea, known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), your airway collapses when you sleep and this prevents you from breathing. Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) therapy involves the use of various machines that pumps out air at a pressure high enough to keep your airway open.
CPAPS, APAPs, BiPAPs – What’s the Difference?
There are several types of PAP machines available and each works in a different way to open your airway. Each type of PAP machine also produces a different amount of air pressure. Furthermore, medical professionals will suggest different CPAP settings for different patients, depending on the patient’s needs.
CPAP Pressure Settings
As its name implies, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machines produce a continuous stream of air pressure to keep the airway open. For many patients, CPAP is the only treatment they need for Sleep Apnea.
BiPAP Pressure Settings
A Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) machine delivers two different air pressures to hold your airway open as you sleep. The machine senses when you inhale and exhale, and produces different pressures when you breathe in and when you breathe out. The BiPAP machine produces a high enough pressure to hold your airway open when you inhale and then produces a lower pressure when you exhale.
APAP Pressure Settings
Auto Positive Airway Pressure (APAP) machines automatically adjust themselves to your changing breathing patterns throughout the night. If you are like many people with Sleep Apnea, you tend to have more frequent bouts of paused breathing at some times of night than at others. APAP automatically adjusts air pressure to fit your changing breathing patterns.
Sleep doctors use sleep studies to diagnose Sleep Apnea. These sleep specialists may prescribe CPAP, APAP or BiPAP machines to patients, depending on the patient’s individual needs. Sleep doctors will also prescribe the pressure settings depending on patient needs.
Only trained professionals should adjust PAP pressures, as the measurements for these pressures can be a bit confusing. Health care professionals measure PAP pressure in centimeters of water, or cmH2O. Scientists use cmH2O as a standard measure of pressure because it is easy – they are measuring how much pressure a column of water exerts against its container. Most people think of pressure in terms of pounds per square inch, or PSI. One centimeter (cm) of water is 0.0142233 PSI. While the differences may seem small, confusing the two can have a significant effect.
What is the Average CPAP Pressure?
Most people with Sleep Apnea require CPAP pressure between 6 and 14 cmH2O. The average CPAP pressure is 10 cmH2O. At the advice of your sleep doctor, though, you may change the settings on your CPAP, APAP or BiPAP.
What Should My CPAP Pressure Be?
One of the most frequently asked questions sleep professionals hear is, “What should my CPAP pressure be?”
In general, your CPAP pressure settings should be just high enough to hold your airway open. When the pressure is too low, you may suffer symptoms of Sleep Apnea. If the pressure is too high, you may struggle with the device, have nasal congestion, and experience choppy or fragmented sleep.
Your CPAP, APAP or BiPap pressure needs may change over time. If your pressure needs do change, you may notice certain signs and symptoms. Contact your sleep doctor if you notice any of the following signs and symptoms that suggest your pressure needs adjustment.
If someone witnesses pauses in your breathing as you sleep while you wear your CPAP, APAP or BiPAP device, your pressure may not be high enough.
Snoring should never occur if your CPAP, APAP or BiPap pressure is adequate. Significantly insufficient air pressure from the Sleep Apnea machine allows the airway to collapse to cause snoring. Low air pressure can also allow tissue in your airway to vibrate, which causes snoring.
Be aware, though, that a leaky mask can cause snoring. A leaky mask allows some of the air to escape, which lowers the air pressure. Before having your CPAP, APAP or BiPap pressure adjusted, check your mask for leaks.
Waking up choking or gasping
Waking up choking or gasping is another sign of Sleep Apnea that should not appear with the use of a CPAP, APAP or BiPAP machine.
AHI readings greater than 5
Sleep Apnea professionals use the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) to indicate how many times you stop breathing over the course of an hour of sleep. You should have your PAP pressure increase if your AHI readings are five or higher.
If you are experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, speak with your sleep doctor about having the CPAP pressure settings adjusted.
To help make sense of the different styles and features of CPAP machines, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to CPAP machines to help you on your journey to CPAP success!
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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.