Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are the most common form of treatment for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is an increasingly common disorder that over 18 million Americans suffer from, mostly seniors.
There are two forms of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea is a disruption in breathing due to the relaxing of throat muscles during sleep, which then fails to keep the airway open.
- Central sleep apnea refers to when the brain fails to signal the proper controls for breathing.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common form. The word “apnea” refers to the actual stop in breathing; these pauses last at least 10 seconds and longer.
Treatment of sleep apnea depends on the severity of the disorder; easy fixes of diet and lifestyle changes can be done by the patient. In some cases one can consider surgery or a sleep apnea mouthpiece. The majority of the time, CPAP machines in combination with position pillows are recommended.
CPAP machines treat moderate to severe sleep apnea. A mask gently delivers a constant stream of air pressure while the patient is sleeping, keeping the airway open and preventing snoring. Some people may find the machine and mask uncomfortable and frustrating. Wearing the CPAP machine can take a lot of getting used to, however it is the most reliable method of treatment.
There is more than one type of mask and machine on the market. A person may adapt better to one style of apparatus than another, and if possible, test out a few of them in order to find the one best suited to their needs. Check ins with a physician are also recommended to ensure the machine is being used properly and for regular adjustments of the mask if necessary.
CPAP machines consist of a mask attached to a small machine with tubing. The tubing, or hose, is flexible and generally long enough to allow for natural movements during the night. Masks typically cover the patient’s nose and mouth creating a seal, though other styles are available. It is important that whichever style mask is chosen, it is comfortable and effective for the wearer.
There are three mask options for CPAP machines. While choosing a mask depends on a person’s sleeping and breathing habits along with a doctor’s recommendations, other important considerations are mask size, fit, and comfort level. An improperly fitted mask will not provide any benefits to the wearer. Likewise, if the mask is uncomfortable to wear a person will not use it regularly, therefore negating any good it can do in helping curtail their sleep apnea.
Full Face Mask: This type of mask is ideal for those whose mouths “drop” when asleep, suffer from chronic sinus issues, nasal congestion and colds. The mask is shaped like a triangle and forms a seal around the nose and mouth, and is held in place with headgear and a chinstrap. Full face masks often require the use of a humidifier due to its causing dry mouth and throat. This style of mask is susceptible to leaks which is why it should be fitted properly. A full face mask may not work if the wearer is claustrophobic as the mask tends to be bulky and confining. Another style of full face mask is a hybrid mask which is less obtrusive and uses an oral cushion and nasal pillow to deliver air flow.
Nasal Mask: This is the original style of CPAP mask. It is smaller than a full face mask and creates a seal only around the nose. It is held in place with headgear and forehead support. A nasal mask is suited for people who breathe through their noses and move around constantly during sleep. This is not a style of mask for those with a history of sinus or allergy issues.
Nasal Cradle Mask: This style of mask rests under the nose while its support wraps around the head, with a hose connected to the top of the mask to keep it away from the front of the face. It has a higher level of comfortability and allows for more freedom of movement than the other styles as it doesn’t create a seal around the nose or mouth. Due to this feature it may not be a suitable treatment for severe forms of sleep apnea.
Choosing a Machine
CPAP machines are certified medical devices and therefore regulated by the FDA. A person must have a prescription from a physician before buying or renting one, either privately or through medical insurance. Insurance companies may only present a few choices of machines covered. It is best to consult with a doctor on the style of machine that fits your lifestyle. Machines can differ in mask design, adjustable settings of airflow and pressure with manual or automatic, provision of humidifiers, recording of sleep patterns, or even offer a carrying case for easy portability while traveling.
Once a prescription for a machine is received from a doctor, deciding which brand of CPAP machine can consist of some trial and error. A doctor can aid in the decision to choose which machine is best, or utilizing expert opinion if ordering online for vetted machines that will provide you with the proper therapy and a comfortable night’s sleep.
There are three types of machines; the traditional CPAP, AutoCPAP, and BiLevel. As stated, the CPAP is one continual flow of air pressure and is inhaled and exhaled repeatedly. The AutoCPAP (or APAP), measures and adjust the airflow it puts out, determined by the users needs. A BiLevel is the most complex device, delivering two seperate pressures for inhalation and exhalation.
DreamStation CPAP Machine
The DreamStation is a traditional single pressure CPAP sleekly designed and user friendly. It has a number of features including:
- Progress feedback, allowing patients to monitor therapy
- Customized adjustments
- Full color LCD screen display, showing sleep trends and monthly summaries
- Lightweight design
- Travel bag
- Wireless capabilities
The DreamStation is equipped with a few advanced technologies. SmartRamp monitors a user’s apnea events and adjusts air pressure as fit to specific needs. C-Flex maximizes patient comfort by providing relief to create a natural breathing exhalation. DreamMapper allows for management of goals, reports, feedback, videos, and promoties compliance. The DreamStation is also compatible with the company’s humidifier.
Airflow is provided even if leaks are detected in the mask. The DreamStation can also detect if a user has removed the mask and will auto shut off. Every 30 days a reminder will be sent to change its filters. The easy to fill water chamber is dishwasher safe.
The machine comes with a two year manufacturer warranty that is only voided by water damage or misuse.
ResMed AirSense 10 Elite with HumidAir Humidifier
The ResMed AirSense is a fixed pressure CPAP machine and comes equipped with an integrated heated humidifier that can be turned on and off and adjusted as needed. The AirSense will automatically detect additional breathing problems such as central sleep apnea, respiratory related arousal, and Cheyne Stokes respiration, generating sleep reports that can be brought to the attention of a physician to determine if further treatments are needed.
The AutoRamp feature will increase air pressure suited to your unique breathing patterns, and can be adjusted manually as well via the user friendly interface. The AirSense is wireless with a quiet motor. A light sensor monitors the room brightness and adjusts the LCD screen accordingly.
The machine can be started simply by breathing via its SmartStart technology, and will check the mask fit to ensure the seal is working properly. The type of mask used is optional; choose between full face, nasal, or nasal pillow.
A warranty of two years is offered from the manufacturer. The machine should be disassembled and cleaned each week by hand with warm water and a mild detergent, then left to air dry. It should not be put in a dishwasher.
Transcend Auto Mini
The Transcend Mini is an APAP machine that can fit in the palm of your hand – it’s portable, compact, and light, weighing less than a pound. It is quiet, with no vibrations and auto adjusting pressure relief features. The Transcend Auto changes its air output based on a person’s breathing, which not only fluctuates during sleep, but can change due to mask leaks, movement, and apneas.
Excellent for travel, the Transcend Auto includes a power supply with international adapters, and can be used in conjunctions with a Transcend battery pack. The machine filter can be changed out or cleaned by pushing one button. It should be rinsed out on a weekly basis and dried before re-inserting.
The Transcend Auto tracks sleep pattern data for up to 13 months. It can store therapy pressure, leak detections, service hours, and total hours of operation. Data can be retrieved and viewed using included software, and then shared with a physician, via email if chosen.
The machine comes with a two year warranty.
Another small machine, the ResMed AirMini CPAP also weighs in at less than a pound. It was designed to be used as a travel machine, comes with a carrying case, can be controlled with an app, and has an internal humidifier that does not require water. The machine cannot be used with a full face mask.
The AirMini comes equipped with ResMed technologies like its full size counterparts; AutoRamp (increasing or decreasing air pressure based on breathing patterns), Expiratory Pressure Relief (dropping pressure during exhalation) and SmartStart (powering on the device by breathing instead of a button push). A downloaded app will track your therapy, providing a score each morning and up to 30 days of history. Settings on the machine can only be adjusted via this app.
Mask options compatible with the AirMini are full face masks, nasal masks, or a nasal pillow created for the machine.
IntelliPAP AutoAdjust with Heated Humidifier
One of the quietest machines available, the IntelliPap Auto Adjust has a combination of auto adjusting pressure, humidifier, SmartCode tracking, and SmartFlex technology.
SmartCode tracking refers to the manufacturers alphanumeric code in reading CPAP data. The machine records a patient’s’ data and keeps records for physician access. SmartFlex is the manufacturers own exhalation technology used to alleviate discomfort when breathing. There are three SmartFlex settings, designed to ease transitions from a doctor prescribed pressure to the machine pressure and back again.
The IntelliPAP has a 3 year warranty.