Devices for PAP Therapy
CPAP is a non-invasive form of treatment that uses mild air pressure to keep your airways open. It involves using a CPAP machine that includes a mask or other device that fits over your nose or your nose and mouth, a tube that connects the mask to the machine’s motor and a motor that blows air into the tube. A humidifier can also be connected to the CPAP machine which will moisturize the air that is being delivered to help relieve nasal irritation and dryness from the constant airflow.
An AutoPAP machine improves on the original CPAP design by adjusting the air pressure level to each breath the patient takes. It automatically titrates, or adjusts to the appropriate air pressure needed to keep the airway open at any given moment. An AutoPAP machine can be more comfortable than a continuous pressure model, because the air pressure remains low unless breathing becomes difficult. While AutoPAP machines are more sophisticated than regular CPAP machines, they are not the best option for every patient. It is important to determine one’s needs through discussion with a physician. Neither type of PAP machine is inherently better or more effective than the other at reducing the complications of sleep apnea. The type of PAP machine chosen is typically the one that best addresses the patient’s needs and provides him or her with the most comfortable sleep.
In some situations, it may be advantageous to use an alternative to standard continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) called bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP). Many of the components of a BiPAP machine are the same as the standard CPAP machine. For example, it still requires a face mask and tubing connected to the device. The key distinguishing feature of BiPAP is that the pressurized air is delivered at two alternating levels. The inspiratory positive airway pressure (IPAP) is higher and supports a breath as it is taken in. Conversely, the expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) is a lower pressure that allows you to breathe out. These pressures are preset based on a prescription provided by your sleep doctor and alternate just like your natural breathing pattern.
BiPAP is a method of breathing support that is often used to treat central sleep apnea, a condition that occurs in the setting of opioid use, congestive heart failure or a prior stroke. It may also be used in more severe obstructive sleep apnea, especially if mixed apnea events are present, suggesting a component of central sleep apnea. Lastly, it helps to treat people who cannot tolerate continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), especially those who find it difficult to breathe out against the pressure. This is more likely to occur when higher pressures are required to keep the airway open. It may help to improve compliance among those who are struggling with their CPAP therapy.
One important part of treating your sleep apnea with a PAP machine is your treatment mask. Masks come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes so that you can be sure to find the mask shape, size and style that fits your needs perfectly.
There are three main mask variations that you can choose from:
- Nasal masks (designed to cover your nose)
- Nasal pillows (designed to sit at your nostrils)
- Full face masks (designed to cover both your mouth and nose)
Finding the right mask for your unique comfort level is the most important part of PAP compliance. Although it may take some time to adjust to sleeping with your PAP device and mask, you’re more likely to abandon your sleep apnea treatment if your mask is uncomfortable.
Nasal masks, are a popular mask style that seals around your nose and have a triangular-shaped cushion held in place by headgear. Nasal pillow masks sit at the base of the nostrils and seal using a soft pillow held in place by headgear. Nasal pillows are preferable for individuals who want something less invasive on their face. While nasal masks and nasal pillow masks seal only around the nose, full face masks seal around both your nose and mouth using a triangular-shaped mask held in place by headgear. Full face masks benefit individuals who breathe through their mouth during sleep or who have not had success with traditional nasal-style masks.