Some 18 million Americans deal with sleep apnea, a potentially serious and life-threatening condition in which breathing can suddenly stop and start throughout the sleep cycle. The average person with obstructive sleep apnea may have as many as 60 apneas during every hour of shut-eye.
Luckily, there are many modern medical solutions for people suffering from sleep apnea, so that you can rest easily in safety and comfort. One of the most common treatments is a sleep apnea mask connected to a machine that delivers a constant and steady supply of air as you sleep. However, there are multiple types of machines on the market, each with their own uses and benefits. Learn about the difference between two of the most common ones, the BiPAP and CPAP masks.
“CPAP” stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It’s a treatment that supplies a mild flow of air through a mask to help keep airways open and lungs working the way they should, automatically. You wear the CPAP mask over your mouth and nose at night to regulate your breathing while you sleep — though not necessarily all of the time. Most doctors and insurance providers recommend wearing the mask at least 70% of the time during a 30-day period for best results, or at least four hours every night.
CPAP machines are relatively quiet, though some people find the steady rhythmic “breathing” a calming sound that enhances sleep itself!
“BiPAP” stands for Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure, and it’s very similar to the CPAP. The main difference is, of course, that between “continuous” versus “bilevel.” Some people complain that exhaling is made difficult through a CPAP machine; the BiPAP has varied pressure levels that make exhaling easier. They also commonly feature timing functions so that every patient can make sure they’re taking the appropriate amount of breaths every minute.
Your decision of whether to go for a CPAP or BiPAP machine all depends on your needs. Your doctor will likely make a recommendation based on your medical history and current sleep apnea conditions, though you may be asked to test out both and see how you react to either treatment.