What Is a CPAP Machine?

What Is a CPAP Machine? All There Is To Know

With the lots of PAP (Positive Airway Pressure) machines around, it’s okay if you’re confused about CPAP machines. But really, what is a CPAP machine?

Is CPAP any different from APAPs or Bi-PAPs? If yes, how? More importantly, what can you expect from a CPAP machine? How does it work?

Take a seat and let this article provide answers to your burning questions.

In the simplest of definition, a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine is a device that helps patients with Sleep Apnea Disorders get some sleep. Sleep Apnea Disorder?

You might be thinking that’s branching out, but it’s not. To understand CPAP machines is to know about Sleep Apnea Disorders.

That said, let’s continue.

How Does Sleep Apnea Relate To CPAP Machines?

Sleep Apnea is a medical condition that interrupts patients’ sleep. The disorder does that through breathing hiccups. In other words, the patient will observe interrupted breathing patterns during his sleep.

When left untreated, a patient living with Sleep Apnea can experience up to hundreds of interruptions during his sleep. The result: such a person might suffer diabetes, headaches, heart function inadequacies, and low productivity during the day.

Luckily, patients of Sleep Apnea today do not have to suffer its complications anymore. Thanks to CPAP machines, the most common form of Sleep Apnea (and what used to be the most severe), OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea), doesn’t disturb people’s deserved rest.

Impressive! But, how does the CPAP machine solve the conundrum? Here is how:

How Does A CPAP Machine Work?

Does the story of Moses and The Red Sea ring a bell? No?

Moses met a somewhat insurmountable hurdle in his quest to free his people. Then, he used his staff, and there was a way where it seemed impossible. Incredible, eh?

CPAP machines work similarly. Remember that the sleeping problem starts when the supply of oxygen meets a cul de sac. What CPAP machines do is pave the way for oxygen to flow freely through your mouth and nostrils. How?

Steady Flow Of Air

A CPAP machine has a compressor to achieve its aim. The compressor is the powerhouse that generates an undisturbed flow of air. Undisturbed?

Yes, the air from the compressor is usually at high-pressure rates. That way, no blockage can solve the continuous flow.

Filtered Air

Furthermore, to ensure that users receive steady and clean air, CPAP machines come with filters. These filters receive the air and sieve out the impurities (if any).

After, the filters open to flexible tubes that open to your mouth and nostrils via a CPAP Mask. What comes next: a night with no gaps in breathing difficulty.

So, you now understand how CPAP machines work. But are there different types? Perhaps some have comparative advantages over others.

Let’s see.

Types of CPAP Machines

CPAPs are the same. Indeed, they come under different brands. Nonetheless, they serve the same function.

At the base, all CPAP machines have these components:

  • A compressor – a motor device packed in the base designs
  • Air filters – these filter the supplied oxygen to rid it of dirt
  • Tubes – receives air from the filters and connects the compressor to the air-masks
  • Masks – these are the devices that come in different types, and there are generally three of them: Nasal Pillow Masks, Nasal Masks, and Full Masks.

Now that this article has provided an answer to the “what is a CPAP machine” question, let’s settle the next question:

Is CPAP Different From APAP and Bi-PAP Machines?


First off, CPAP and APAP differ in their denotations. While CPAP means Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, APAP denotes Automatic Positive Airway Pressure.

Functional Differences

Going by the name, APAP serves automatic and need-specific responses to patients of OSA. Here’s what that means:

During the night, you would shift gears. In other words, your breathing needs will change. Fortunately, APAP machines understand that and adjust to meet your needs.

For example, your need for oxygen while in a fetal sleeping pattern will be higher than when you sleep upright facing the heavens. How so?

In a fetal pattern, you curl up and stay on your side. As such, you won’t get adequate air. Meaning: you’ll need more oxygen. However, in the upright position, your two nostrils are open and free to work optimally.

If you had used a CPAP machine, the device wouldn’t adjust to meet your sleeping position. It would serve you the same quantity and pressure of air all night.

Technology Differences

At the core, APAP machines are self-learning, flexible devices for all sorts of PAP therapies. These innovative devices study your sleeping pattern – the pressure and the demand.

For example, the way you breathe when you’re sick differs from your routine breathing sequence. Besides, the way you slept yesterday could change the next day. You could even have gained weight.

Whatever changes happen to your body, what APAPs do is to study you. From there, the machines administer the right dose of air at the just-fit pressure to you at the right time.

What of CPAP machines?

The technology of CPAPs is somewhat rigid. Though cheaper than APAP, these machines don’t learn your sleeping patterns. Why?

The designs of CPAPs are simple and fixed. Once you appropriate the set-up of your device, it’d stay like that until you change it again.


Bi-PAP (also called BPAP), Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure, is more similar to CPAP machines than to APAP. Though Bi-PAPs have two pressure levels, they remain just as limited and fixed as CPAPs.

That said, let’s go to the differences between the two PAP therapy aids.

Functional Differences

CPAP machines, by design, treat mild Sleep Apnea Disorders. If you observe blockages along your breath channels (throat and nostrils), CPAPs can help you. Such minor issues are CPAP expertise.

But talk of disorders that have to do with nerve and muscular complications, Bi-PAPs are better placed to help rather than CPAPs.

In simple terms, Bi-PAPs are for the big leagues – especially Central Sleep Apnea. So much so, only Bi-PAPs meet the needs of users that need strict and specific breathe-per-minute settings.

Furthermore, Bi-PAPs are most suited to patients suffering from chronic heart and lung complications. Even APAPs don’t attend to such matters.

Technology Differences

The technology in use is the fundamental difference between Bi-PAPs and CPAPs. Bi-PAPs has two primary settings:

  1. Pressure settings for inhalation (IPAP)
  2. Pressure settings for exhalation (EPAP)

With such settings, Bi-PAPs tend to be more comfortable for Sleep Apnea patients than CPAPs. How so?

First, Bi-PAPs supply high-pressured air for inhalations. That way, your airway (throat and nostrils) stays open when you’re sleeping for comfortable breathing.

Secondly (and lastly), Bi-PAPs maintain low-pressure air for exhalations. That is because there is less resistance when you exhale. With low-pressure air in this phase, there is less stress on your airways, and you sleep comfortably.

Now, let’s talk about CPAPs:

Unlike Bi-PAPs, CPAPs are singular-pressure PAP aids. When you set your CPAP machine to high pressure, you could even experience difficulties when exhaling.

Which Should You Use: APAP, Bi-PAP, or CPAP?

As earlier stated, APAPs and CPAPs are more suited to solving Obstructive Sleep Apnea Disorders. Bi-PAPs, on the other hand, are best for treating Central Sleep Apnea.

So, in case you think one is better than the other, your answer is no. Each fits different functions. That is why you should seek your physician before acquiring any for your PAP therapy.

That said, CPAPs are the most popular of the three. The reason for that is because they are often the first aid for most PAP therapies.

Even with all the stated benefits of these PAP aids, what if none works for you? What can you do?

When CPAP Fails, What Can You Do?

When CPAP, APAP, and Bi-PAP fail you in your Sleep Apnea treatment, don’t fret. You can try these alternatives below – albeit under the guidance of a physician:

  • Change your sleeping pattern – your sleeping difficulty might be a result of your sleeping position. So, if the PAP aids fail, try other sleeping aids that ensure that you keep to a comfortable pattern.
  • Try exercise – exercising clears clogged airways. It works even best when your sleep troubles are weight-induced. In that case, you should also consider dieting alongside your drills for optimal results.
  • Oral aids –  devices such as dental retainers and mouth guards can help. They do so by exerting force on your tongue.

That way, your tongue stays down and does not hinder the air coming from your throat.

Implants and surgeries – should be the last resort. Here, doctors regulate your breathing through neural implants that assist your diaphragm. Another method is using surgery to reduce your adenoids or tonsils – if they are too big. However, this method is most effective in children.


CPAP machines are aids to Obstructive Sleep Apnea Disorders. They help patients enjoy a comfortable night’s rest.

Indeed, CPAPs have their limitations. Luckily, other PAP machines such as APAP and Bi-PAP solves most.

However, when the three methods fail in treating your sleep troubles. Let your physicians guide you on what to do as they have always done.

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