Sleep apnea affects hundreds of thousands people all over the world. It can be a debilitating condition – especially since it tends to go unnoticed for a while. The lack of energy, bad sleep and no focus throughout the day are often waved away as “oh, I’m just getting older…”. Luckily, awareness on sleep apnea and other sleeping disorders is growing. But the solutions to these problems can be confusing as well. That’s why today we’re going to talk about BiPAP vs CPAP.
Both are forms of Positive Airway Treatment (PAP), and will help you get more oxygen at night. They’re both available in different forms, but most of the time it will concern a facial mask: nasal, full face, nasal pillow, nasal prong, hybrid, oral or total face mask.
If you suffer from sleep apnea, then you will have to wear this mask the entire night throughout your sleep. The mask can be attached to different machines that regulate the flow of oxygen – and this is where BiPAP and CPAP come in:
BiPAP vs CPAP
Any PAP machine works by blowing air with oxygen into your lungs. By providing enough pressure, this ensure that there will be a constant flow no matter how open or closed your airway is.
Important to notice is that both the BiPAP and CPAP treatments work for most people who have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The reason they work is because with sleep apnea the muscles in the throat and mouth relax during your sleep – making it difficult for air to flow naturally to your lungs. This will make you wake up during the night and gasp for air.
Any PAP treatment will ensure that there always is enough pressure in your airway so that you can breathe normally. The benefits of treating sleep apnea are:
- Better sleep
- Wake up more refreshed
- More energy throughout the day
- Better memory and concentration
- Lower blood pressure
However, there are some critical differences in how the BiPAP vs CPAP work. And they are also used for different types of sleeping disorders.
CPAP: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
With CPAP there is one continuous pressure for which oxygen-rich air is being provided to your lungs. The machine blows at a single set pressure, which ensures that there is constant flow no matter how closed or open your airway it. Depending on the machine, this pressure can be adjusted – although the maximum pressure for most CPAP machines is 20 cm/H2O (this is how pressure is noted for PAP therapy – most sleep apnea can be treated between 6 and 15)
The advantage of CPAP machines is that they are simpler (read more affordable). For most people who suffer from *simple* sleep apnea, a CPAP machine tend to be enough to provide better sleep and all the other benefits listed in the previous paragraphs.
BiPAP: Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure
On a fundamental level, the BiPAP works the same as any other PAP machine. The difference however, lies in the fact that there is a different pressure for breathing in and breathing out.
The reason why they do this is because for some people it’s difficult to breath out at the same pressure. By lowering the pressure when breathing out, this adds comfort and makes it easier to complete the breathing cycle. The difference in pressure is 4 cm/H2O most of the time.
If you’re suffering from complex sleep apnea, or more severe sleeping disorders (related to lack of oxygen), then a BiPAP treatment is generally recommended by doctors.
The advantages of BiPAP over CPAP is that they can offer more pressure (up to 25), and that users experience more comfort. The downside is that they are more expensive.
APAP: Automatic Positive Airway Pressure
There is one final PAP treatment that I want to mention here. This is the APA treatment. It differs from the other PAP machines in that it monitors your breathing and blows with the minimal amount of pressure needed to keep your airway open at night. This works well for pressure changes – for example if you drank alcohol before bed, often change your sleeping positions, or if you’ve lost/gained weight in the last time.
BiPap vs CPAP for COPD
If you have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), then it can be tough to know whether you need BiPAP vs CPAP for COPD. however, the general consensus among doctors is that it’s better to go with BiPAP.
A study found that treating COPD with a BiPAP machine resulted in less stress on the lungs and making breathing less difficult. It also made it easier to help supply enough oxygen during the night.
BiPAP vs CPAP indications
Here are the BiPAP vs CPAP indications (source)
- CPAP indications:
- Non-acute setting: treatment of obstructive sleep apnea
- Acute setting: pulmonary edema or COPD exacerbation, when there is hypoxemia, but no CO2 retention.
- BiPAP indications:
- When CPAP doesn’t work for sleep apnea.
- For patients with chronic CO2 retention and also have sleep apnea.
- For patients with a neuromuscular disease who need extra nocturnal assistance for ventilation.
Conclusion BiPAP vs CPAP
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article. Here’s a quick summary of everything we’ve learned:
- Both BiPAP and CPAP work for treating sleep apnea and other oxygen-related sleeping disorders.
- They work by wearing a mask that provides enough pressure so that your airway stays open throughout the night.
- Benefits of any PAP treatment include waking up with more energy, better focus and memory and lower blood pressure.
- CPAP offers a continuous pressure. This works for most people with sleep apnea.
- BiPAP has a lower pressure when you’re breathing out. This makes it more comfortable and works better for more serious disorders (such as COPD).
If you have any questions, regarding whether you need BiPAP or CPAP, feel free to leave a comment. Otherwise, it’s never a bad idea to go to your doctor. A personal consultation will make it a lot easier for him to offer you the correct diagnose.
P.S. the following products can greatly help you if you suffer from sleep apnea: