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How Do CPAP Machines Work?

How Do CPAP Machines Work?

While it may be relatively common knowledge that a CPAP machine is the go-to method for treating sleep apnea, you may be wondering just how this is accomplished. By providing a steady, continuous flow of pressurized air, CPAP machines keep the airways from collapsing. This in turn prevents the pauses in breathing the characterize obstructive sleep apnea.

Here is a closer look at how CPAP machines accomplish this important task.

How Does a CPAP Machine Stop Sleep Apnea?

travel CPAP device

CPAP machines use a compressor motor to draw in air from the room. This air is then pressurized by the machine, after which it is transmitted to the user through a tube and mask.

The device’s pressure setting is what really makes the difference in preventing sleep apnea. The appropriate setting is determined by a sleep specialist based on the results of your sleep study. The flow of pressurized air will essentially push against your breathing passages to keep them from collapsing in your sleep. This way, your lungs receive a steady supply of air throughout the night.

With this steady flow of air, your breathing won’t be interrupted, and you will sleep soundly. You will wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and energized, like you should.

Today’s CPAP machines operate on the same basic principles as the first CPAP devices invented by Dr. Colin Sullivan of Australia in the 1980s. Before CPAP devices were invented, a tracheotomy was viewed as the only way to “treat” sleep apnea — an invasive and potentially dangerous solution.

While early CPAP devices were large and bulky, the benefits of this unique type of therapy quickly became clear as more and more patients started to use them. Over time, improvements to CPAP technology have allowed the devices to become smaller and smarter.

In addition to offering greater control over the flow of air, modern CPAP machines often incorporate comfort-enhancing features such as gradually ramping air pressure, humidifier integration, and more. Without compromising the quality of sleep apnea therapy, such additions make it easier for users to adapt to wearing a mask, while also reducing potential side effects such as a dry throat.

How Are BiPAP and APAP Machines Different?


As part of the advancement in CPAP technology, BiPAP and APAP machines have also been introduced, and are becoming more widely used.

BiPAP, or bi-level positive airflow pressure devices, use two pressure settings. A higher setting is used for when the person inhales, while a lower pressure is used during exhalation. The lower exhalation pressure makes this device easier and more comfortable for some people to use than a standard CPAP device.

BiPAP devices are also used for individuals who have central sleep apnea, rather than the more common obstructive sleep apnea. In central sleep apnea, the brain fails to send the right signals to the muscles that control breathing. This results in a interruption to breathing, as in obstructive sleep apnea. BiPAP devices use a backup respiratory rate setting that keeps air flowing in and out of the lungs, even when these incidents occur.

APAP, or automatic positive airflow pressure devices, automatically adjust air pressure throughout the night by monitoring your breathing patterns. The device is able to anticipate when a sleep apnea episode is about to take place, increasing pressure to prevent such issues.

APAP devices can also adjust air pressure as needed based on whether you took a medication that affects your breathing, or even changes in your sleep position. These continual adjustments allow for effective, yet comfortable distribution of air all night long.

Don’t Overlook the Mask

CPAP mask

Regardless of whether a CPAP, BiPAP, or APAP device will be the best fit, you cannot overlook mask selection. CPAP masks are what deliver the pressurized air to your nose and/or mouth.

Start by determining whether you should use a full face mask, a nasal mask, or nasal pillows. For example, if you breathe through your mouth at night, you should wear a full face mask. If a large, bulky mask makes you feel claustrophobic and you require relatively lower air pressure settings, nasal pillows are likely a better fit.

Other factors, such as your preferred sleep position and whether you have facial hair, also help determine which mask is right for you. Regardless of the type of mask you prefer, you should make sure that it is a good fit for your face. CPAP masks should fit snugly, yet comfortably against your face to avoid air leaks and skin irritation.

The right mask will ensure that your CPAP settings get the desired results.

Cover Your CPAP Needs With Help Medical Supplies

While CPAP machines can make an incredible difference for your sleep quality, purchasing the supplies you need to treat sleep apnea can sometimes be easier said than done — particularly if you don’t have insurance coverage.

This is where Help Medical Supplies comes in. In addition to offering discounted prices on leading brands like ResMed and Philips Respironics, we carry a vast inventory of masks, tubing, filters, water chambers, mask replacement parts, and more. Free shipping is available on all orders over $89, and financing is also available to break larger purchases into more affordable monthly payments.

A CPAP machine, paired with the right mask, will go a long way in helping you get a good night’s sleep. With our help, you don’t have to worry about your budget getting in the way. Restful nights are on the way with the help of your CPAP equipment.


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