August 03, 2020 · 5 minute read
August 03, 2020

CPAP vs. BiPAP Machines: Which One is Right for You?

5 minute read

CPAP and BiPAP are the most recommended treatments by doctors and sleep specialists with the potential of an effective solution to OSA and COPD symptoms and improved quality of life.

If you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you've probably already heard of one or both of these treatments and may wonder which one is right for you.

This article will cover various questions related to COPD, OSA, and everything you need to know about BiPAP and CPAP.

But, before we jump into the main topic: BiPAP vs. CPAP, let's explain the two main medical reasons for using these therapy devices.

What is COPD?

COPD, commonly known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a common type of lung disease. The more common forms of COPD are Emphysema and Bronchitis. These diseases are more prevalent among smokers but are also common among non-smokers.

Some of the typical symptoms include:

  • Excessive coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

Most of the symptoms are related to overall inefficiency in breathing.

COPD does not have an identified cure, but you may reduce the effects through the following measures:

  • Medication
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Oxygen therapy
  • BiPAP/CPAP therapy

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. Usually sleep is disturbed leaving apnea patients tired throughout the day, and the accompanying loud snoring can also disturb your bed partner. Consider visiting your health care provider and discuss your symptoms.

Some of the common symptoms involve:

Sleep Apnea treatment options:

BiPAP and CPAP are the two most common PAP therapies  used for COPD as well as sleep apnea. The good news is that you don’t have to figure this out on your own. Your sleep specialist or health care provider should be able to make the proper recommendation of your therapy needs based on the results of your sleep study and your assessment in the clinic.

Let’s take a look at the differences and similarities between these two therapy devices.

BiPAP - Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure

Resmed Aircurve Vauto BiPAP machine

BiPAP is one of the most efficient methods to treat respiratory diseases and breathing problems. BiPAP is a type of respiratory machine which aids breathing and increases respiratory efficiency.

How Does BiPAP Work?

  • When you breathe normally, the lungs expand due to the diaphragm helping decrease the pressure inside your lungs. 
  • Oxygenated air moves from high pressure (environment) to low pressure (lungs). But, in respiratory diseases, this mechanism is inefficient and can lead to a low oxygen level in the bloodstream and eventually to sickness.
  • BiPAP machines help maintain pressure and thus fulfill the body's oxygen demand by pushing the pressurized air into your system.
  • This is known as positive pressure ventilation as it helps in opening up your lungs with the pressurized air.

What Are The Benefits of BiPAP?

BiPAP therapy is vital for people suffering from respiratory diseases, such as COPD or OSA, and here's why:

  • This machine provides sufficient oxygen to give relief to your worked-up lungs and chest.
  • It makes it easier to breathe, especially at night, as it helps in opening your airways for the efficient and required exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
  • It improves the quality of life and survival rate in COPD patients.
  • And it also treats breathlessness.

BiPAP Machine Features

BiPAP machines have many benefits and features. If you are looking to purchase a BiPAP machine, here are a few of them to keep in mind:

  • Time settings and pressure options to personalize your user experience
  • Easy connectivity through Bluetooth.
  • Tracking and detection of apnea events, sleep hours, and other important information.
  • Humidifier for reduced dryness and enhanced comfort
  • A 'ramp' feature for added comfort and aid in gradual therapy adjustment. The machine starts at a lower pressure and gradually increases it to the prescribed level. 
  • Leak detection to identify any faults in the machine's structure and prevent problems or inefficient therapy.

BiPAP Machine Limitations

BiPAP is an effective machine to give you relief and comfort if you have respiratory discomfort with few side effects or limitations, such as:

  • Discomfort due to tubes and mask.
  • Dry nose
  • Congestion
  • Bloating of stomach
  • Irritation in eyes

CPAP - Continuous Positive Airway Pressure

Resmed Airsense 10 CPAP machine

CPAP treatment is one of the most beneficial therapies for patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and any other pulmonary disease. It protects the airways and tissues from collapsing. CPAP pressure therapy is also prescribed to newborns with underdeveloped lungs.

How Does CPAP Work?

  • CPAP machines provide a constant supply of pressurized air through tubes and into a CPAP mask.
  • There are different types of CPAP masks: full face mask, nasal mask, and nasal pillow masks. 
  • The CPAP mask maintains a single pressure airflow through the airways.
  • The continuous flow of air into your respiration system ensures that the tissues do not collapse.
  • This eases breathing and respiration.

What Are The Benefits of CPAP?

CPAP helps prevent brief breathing interruptions, also known as apnea events, that describe sleep apnea and maintain your regular breathing pattern. The benefits tend to increase with longer-term CPAP use.

CPAP can also help to:

  • Keep your airways open 
  • Reduce snoring
  • Better sleep quality 
  • Treat high blood pressure 
  • Reduce daytime sleepiness

CPAP Machine Features

CPAP machines come with a lot of benefits and features. If you are looking to purchase a CPAP machine, here are a few of them to keep in mind:

CPAP Machine Limitations

CPAP machines don't have many disadvantages, but the existing ones are completely manageable, especially with the right equipment for your needs. Here are a few to keep in mind:

  • Discomfort due to the CPAP mask 
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Dry or stuffy nose
  • Noise
  • Leaks
  • Skin/eye irritation

Watch How To Choose The Right Mask For You

Now that you are aware of both therapies let's talk about the differences between them.

What Is The Difference Between BiPAP vs. CPAP

CPAP vs. BiPAP: differences and similarities

BiPAP and CPAP are the most commonly prescribed devices for treating sleep apnea and respiratory disorders.

The prescription of one or the other depends upon the below factors:

  • Type of illness
  • Cost
  • Working mechanism
  • Comfort
  • Portability
  • Monitoring

Type of Illness

While BiPAP and CPAP are equally effective for treating sleep apnea, they are better suited for one type than the other. BiPAP is better for Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) and Complex Sleep Apnea, while CPAP is the best option for Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Cost

CPAP devices are usually more affordable than BiPAP devices. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, while CPAP devices cost between $185 to $5000, they are more affordable than BiPAP devices.

Working Mechanism

The main difference between CPAP and BiPAP lies in their working mechanisms. In BiPAP, the inspiratory positive airway pressure (IPAP) is higher than expiratory or exhalation pressure. Thus, the increased pressure outside the airways helps in letting in the air more efficiently. Simply put, the BiPAP uses 2 different pressures.

However, the expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) is lower. Thus, as the pressure is lower than usual outside, making exhaling easier. The BiPAP can aslo support higher pressure than the CPAP can. But in CPAP, both the inspiratory air pressure as well as expiratory air pressure is the same.

In order to figure out your CPAP/BiPAP pressure levels, your doctor will have to refer you to a sleep lab to do a titration study which may or may not fall under your insurance coverage so please check before making any appointment.

Comfort

BiPAP as well as CPAP machines, if chosen appropriately, provide good comfort to patients.

However, as BiPAP has two pressure settings, many people find it more comfortable than CPAP.

CPAP has only one pressure setting, making it a little harder for some patients to breathe in or out or adjust to the device.

Portability

As CPAP machines are lighter and less complicated than BiPAP, they are easy to carry around and they also come in convenient portable travel sizes. On the other hand, BiPAP machines are usually best for hospital/home scenarios.

Monitoring 

In a CPAP machine, you can adjust settings and go. In comparison, a BiPAP machine needs monitoring of the delivered pressures.

Consult with your doctor or sleep medicine specialist to understand your condition and find the optimal breathing device that fits your needs. This is an important step before starting your CPAP or BiPAP therapy to improve your chances of a successful treatment.

Want to know more?

Watch APAP vs. BiPAP vs. CPAP Explained

Written by The Sleeplay Team

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