You may already know that there are three core forms of PAP therapy - CPAP, BiPAP and APAP. All of these are known for effectively treating various breathing-related disorders. However, one of the most asked questions by users of PAP therapy is: What’s the difference between BiPAP vs CPAP therapy?
BiPAP and CPAP therapy are two of the most well-known Sleep Apnea solutions. Yet, many individuals who are new to the world of PAP treatment aren’t aware of the subtle differences and similarities between these two therapy options. While your sleep specialist will ultimately decide which PAP therapy is best suited to your diagnosis, it is beneficial to educate yourself on the ways that breathing-related sleep disorders can be treated.
In this article, we are going to explain the differences between BiPAP therapy and CPAP therapy. We’ll explain how each of these PAP therapies works, their uses and the best-selling machines that are highly recommended for each therapy. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
BiPAP therapy, which can also be referred to as Bilevel positive airway pressure or VPAP therapy, shares the same basic goal as CPAP - to relieve symptoms of Sleep Apnea - but its form of treatment is provided in a slightly different way.
On first look, a BiPAP machine doesn’t look too dissimilar to that of a CPAP machine. Its components are the same as it includes a face mask, motorized machine and tubing. So, while on the surface it may be hard to distinguish the difference between BiPAP vs CPAP, it is the way in which this machine works that sets it apart.
A BiPAP machine works by delivering positive airway pressure to an individual as they are sleeping to keep their airways open at night preventing apneic events. A BiPAP machine is unique in that it provides two pressure levels: one for inhaling and one for exhaling.
In some situations, a Sleep Apnea patient may need extra respiratory support or find themselves intolerable to other forms of treatment. In this case, a BiPAP machine may be prescribed to you. These machines have also been noted as being a great travel PAP machine and good for those with breathing restrictions.
As we mentioned above, BiPAP therapy delivers two pressure levels. These are Inspiratory Positive Airway Pressure (IPAP) and Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure (EPAP). IPAP is the pressure level that is set when inhaling and EPAP is the pressure level that is set when exhaling.
These pressure levels are determined by a sleep specialist based on the results of your initial sleep study. They were created to replicate a more natural breathing rhythm for patients which makes getting used to therapy easier.
IPAP settings are generally set at a higher pressure level (between 8 -10 cm H2O) to support the patient’s breath while inhaling. EPAP is set at a lower pressure level (between 2 - 4 cm H2O) so that there’s less pressure resistance for patients when exhaling. Again, these settings will be determined by your sleep specialist but can be adjusted if need be. That’s why the use of BiPAP machines is often closely monitored to ensure that a patient is being treated adequately.
BiPAP therapy is less commonly prescribed for those with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) as an initial form of treatment. Generally, this form of treatment is prescribed to OSA patients when CPAP therapy isn’t working. However, that’s not to say it is in any way less beneficial.
But its uses don’t just stop there. Bilevel PAP therapy is often recommended for those who are suffering from other serious breathing disorders such as:
The difference between BiPAP and CPAP therapy is in the name. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy provides an OSA patient with a consistent stream of airway pressure as part of their Sleep Apnea therapy.
Many people that are prescribed CPAP therapy to treat their OSA note how much of an improvement they see in their sleep quality. It’s no wonder why CPAP has been dubbed with the label of the gold standard for Sleep Apnea treatment.
As mentioned above, a CPAP machine consists of a motorized machine, a built-in humidifier, a CPAP face mask and tubing.
These features ensure that the machine can blow a specified level of pressurized air into the patient’s airway passage via a face mask. This pressurized air increases oxygen levels being received in the throat preventing muscles from collapsing either partially or fully. The constant flow of pressurized air will also help to regulate breathing and reduce the vibrations that cause snoring.
Based on the results of your sleep study, a sleep specialist will determine what pressure level you will need in order to counteract the number of apneic events you experience during sleep. How exactly is this determined?
During a polysomnography test, a sleep technician will be monitoring how many apnea and hypopnea events you have during the test. They will start off by administering a low-pressure setting level and then gradually increase this setting as needed depending on your breathing patterns. As CPAP’s intention is to eliminate apneic events, the sleep technician will adjust CPAP settings until the events are no longer being observed.
Once this pressure level has been determined, your sleep specialist will provide you with a prescribed CPAP pressure level which your CPAP vendor will use when setting up your machine.
While CPAP therapy is most famously used in the treatment of OSA, it can be used to treat other respiratory illnesses.
In fact, it has been noted that continuous airway pressure is beneficial for those that are suffering from Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). UARS is known as the stepping stone between mild snoring and OSA. It has been noted that receiving CPAP therapy during this stage can help to prevent an individual from developing full Sleep Apnea. Additionally, it is also beneficial for those that are experiencing sleep disturbances and poor quality sleep due to snoring.
While you may not have full choice over which Sleep Apnea therapy is right for you, you do have a choice when it comes to the machine that you choose. Below, we list the best-selling BiPAP machines and CPAP machines that are currently available on the market.
1) DreamStation BiPAP Auto with Humidifier
The DreamStation BiPAP Auto with Humidifier is a modern, sleek and evolved PAP machine that offers core features such as auto-adjusting pressure levels, SmartRamp and Bi-Flex pressure relief. With a tiny footprint, this BiPAP machine is also on the lighter side meaning that it is perfect for those who either travel a lot or those design-conscious users who prefer a more discreet looking Sleep Apnea machine.
Pros: Users of the DreamStation BiPAP Auto with Humidifier are fans of this machine for multiple reasons. Not only does it have a modern and sleek design but features such as the front-facing colour display and navigational dial means not having to fumble around in the dark to operate an outdated touchscreen. The optional humidifier is also extremely easy to maintain and is great for travel due to its small size.
Cons: The only potential downsides to this BiPAP machine is that its auto on/off feature never fully turns off so the machine is constantly on during the day. Additionally, unlike some other PAP machines, the DreamStation BiPAP Auto with Humidifier does not audibly or visually alert you if your mask isn’t on properly during the night.
How much does this machine cost? Users can expect to pay $2,010 for this machine.
2) AirCurve 10 VAuto BiLevel With HumidAir
The AirCurve 10 VAuto by ResMed is another BiLevel PAP machine that offers users self-adjusting capabilities. This machine provides Easy-Breathe technology to make sure that therapy is comfortable, easy to use and effective. The addition of the HumidAir heated humidifier has been praised by many PAP users since it was released on the market. Its TiControl feature is also another aspect that makes this machine stand out as it is an advanced tool aimed at helping people with respiratory illnesses such as COPD.
Pros: One of the biggest selling points of the AirCurve 10 VAuto that users enjoy is the fact that this machine feels like an integrated package. With a user-friendly colour LCD display, optimized humidification, Mask Fit seal check and SmartStart functionality, users get all of the bells and whistles when it comes to this machine.
Cons: A potential downside of this PAP machine, however, is the cost. The AirCurve 10 VAuto is one of the most expensive BiPAP machines on the market. Those looking for something more affordable may want to consider the DreamStation BiPAP Auto instead.
How much does this machine cost? On the slightly pricier end of the scale, the AirCurve 10 VAuto will cost approximately $2,374.
1) DreamStation with Humidifier
Philips Respironics also has a CPAP version of their best-selling BiPAP machine. The DreamStation CPAP machine with a built-in humidifier and offers an equally sleek, modern design. Many CPAP users have noted that the vibrant display screen makes it both easy to read and easy to use. Offering Bluetooth connectivity, SmartRamp, Mask Fit Check, and A-Flex pressure relief, this is a CPAP machine that is worth investing in.
Pros: One of the key features that makes this CPAP machine a best-seller is the fact that it's one of the quietest machines on the market which has been given a big thumbs up by many users. Additionally, its ramp and pressure relief features make it very easy for users to fall asleep.
Cons: A possible downside is that this CPAP machine may not be compatible with all brands of masks. So, it is important to follow the recommendations laid out by the manufacturer.
How much does this machine cost? This PAP machine is currently on sale for $594.98 and is one of the cheapest CPAP machines that we have in stock.
2) AirSense 10 Elite With HumidAir
If your ideal CPAP machine offers a lightweight design, built-in heated humidifier, advanced therapy tracking data capabilities and not to mention being super quiet, then the AirSense 10 Elite with HumidAir is the perfect choice for you. This ResMed CPAP machine offers features such as AutoRamp technology, SmartStart, an improved LCD display and advanced wireless communications.
This CPAP machine is perfect for those that are new to Sleep Apnea therapy and for those that are looking to update their PAP machine.
Pros: One of the main advantages of this CPAP machine is its size. Improving on the AirSense 9, this machine is trimmer, lighter, and great for travelling. Its advanced controls and features are also hard to beat - especially from a comfort perspective.
Cons: Possible disadvantages of this CPAP machine are that some users found that the built-in humidifier consumed a lot of water with many users having to refill the chamber on a nightly basis. Additionally, it is much more expensive than its Respironics counterpart, the DreamStation.
How much does this machine cost? The AirSense 10 is currently on sale for $1,111.
Finally, we get to the ultimate question: BiPAP vs CPAP therapy - which is better? The answer to this is that they are just as good as each other. At the end of the day, it is your sleep specialist that will determine which form of Sleep Apnea therapy is best for your diagnosis.
If you were prescribed with CPAP therapy but are finding it hard to tolerate your set CPAP pressure, it is worth following up with your sleep specialist. It may be a case that your CPAP pressure is set too high or you could also be a candidate for BiPAP therapy.
Realistically, there is no form of Sleep Apnea treatment that is better than the other. As long as the form of therapy you have been prescribed is adequately treating your Sleep Apnea symptoms and you are achieving a better sleep quality then it is a win-win in our eyes.
If you have questions about CPAP or BiPAP machines, feel free to reach out to our team of experts here at CPAPMachines.ca. We’ll be happy to provide our guidance and advice on how to get the most out of your PAP equipment.
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