Breathing Assistance Devices for Sleep Apnea

There are three main forms of breathing assistance devices in the form of positive airway pressure. Positive airway pressure is defined as “a breathing machine that pumps a controlled steam of air through a mask worn over the nose, mouth, or both. The additional pressure splints or holds open the relaxed muscles, just as air in a balloon inflates it.”


The three main varieties include the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), the variable positive airway pressure (VPAP, also sometimes referred bi-level or BiPAP), and automatic positive airway pressure (APAP).

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure

The continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), sometimes called “nasal CPAP”, is the treatment that is favored by those who suffer from mixed as well as obstructive sleep apnea. The CPAP is a small air blower device that is attached to a hose that connects to a nose mask. The device is worn while a person sleeps at night. It is comparable to an oxygen mask as it has straps on it to make sure it remains on the face securely.

The CPAP works throughout the night to blow air into the patients nose in order to keep the airway clear and open and to keep the airway pressure flowing readily. How much pressure the machine generates is determined by the patients doctor according to titration or an overnight test. The newest versions of CPAPs are more geared towards the comfort of patients, as this is one of the main complaints of those who use them.

VPAP, or biPAP

The variable positive airway pressure (VPAP), which is also known as the bi-level positive airway pressure (biPAP) is similar to the CPAP but with some small differences. In this case, rather than delivering a constant stream of pressure to the patient the VPAP is able to know exactly how much air the person requires at different periods throughout the night and it doles it out as required.

The machine takes its cues from the inspiration and expiration of the patients breathing. Upon inspiration of breath, a higher level of pressure is necessary in order to prevent apneas, snoring and hypopneas. When it comes to expiration, the sufferer often needs a lower amount of pressure. It is worth mentioning that due to its more specialized quality, VPAP machines are presently pricier than are CPAPs. As well many insurance policies do not cover them but do cover the cost or part of the cost of a CPAP.


The automatic positive airway pressure (APAP) is the most up to date form of positive airway pressure. This type combines a computer and pressure sensors which go about the task of continuously monitoring how well or badly the patient is breathing as he or she sleeps. The pressure is adjusted by the machine according to when the persons breathing is better or worse.

The pressure is increased when the person is struggling to breathe and needs a burst of oxygen and then it is decreased when the pressure is not needed as much. The APAP is still very experimental in nature although it has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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