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The Difference Between CPAP and BiPAP


You’ve most likely heard the term “CPAP” at some point. In fact, you may use a CPAP machine yourself. Maybe a family member uses one for snoring. While CPAP is a fairly familiar term, BiPAP is less well-known.

The two modes have similarities but are used as treatments for different conditions. A sleep study or evaluation by a qualified physician is necessary to determine if someone needs CPAP vs. BiPAP.

What are the differences between the two, and what is each one used for?

What is CPAP?

CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It is frequently used for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

How does CPAP work?

In obstructive sleep apnea, the soft tissue in the back of the throat can relax and block the airway during sleep. CPAP provides a continuous level of pressure in the airway to prevent any obstruction. The level of pressure is set on a CPAP machine to ensure the right settings are always in place when the user is sleeping.

A mask or nasal prongs are worn to deliver CPAP to the person wearing it. Different masks and sizes are available for maximum comfort.

Who needs CPAP?

Anyone with diagnosed obstructive sleep apnea could benefit from a CPAP machine. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to a variety of health issues including heart troubles. There are a few well-known risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea:

  • Obesity
  • Large neck circumference
  • A narrow airway
  • Being male
  • Family history
  • Smoking

By maintaining continuous pressure in the airway, CPAP ensures the wearer is getting optimal oxygen during sleep. Excess snoring, fatigue, and witnessed episodes of breathing cessation while sleeping are all signs of obstructive sleep apnea. If any of these signs are observed, a pulmonologist should be consulted.

What is BiPAP?

BiPAP stands for Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure, meaning two levels of airway pressure. Just like CPAP, there is an exhalation pressure which provides continuous pressure throughout the airway. In addition to this first level, an inhalation pressure is also delivered. Both pressures are referred to as IPAP and EPAP (inhalation and exhalation).

How does BiPAP work?

A BiPAP machine delivers a set number of “breaths” per minute with the dialed-in inhalation pressure. This setting will help the person take adequate breaths. Just like CPAP, an exhalation pressure (EPAP) is also set. This maintains a constant pressure in the airway, making sure it is open and patent.

Who needs BiPAP?

There is a second type of sleep apnea called central sleep apnea (CSA), where the brain fails to send signals to take breaths. CSA generally happens in patients with underlying health issues like chronic heart failure, neurological conditions, strokes, and opiate addiction. CSA sufferers require BiPAP to assure that adequate breaths are taking place during sleep.

Individuals with severe COPD also may benefit from wearing BiPAP at night for respiratory support.

People with neuromuscular diseases often need to use BiPAP at night to maintain normal breathing because of respiratory muscle weakness.

How big are CPAP/BiPAP machines?

Fortunately, home CPAP and BiPAP machines are conveniently compact and portable, making them easy to bring anywhere. Both machines have the same components, including tubing, a mask, and water reservoir for humidification.

How do you clean your CPAP/BiPAP machine?

To prevent contaminants and organisms from growing in your machine and tubing, it’s crucial to frequently clean the parts of your machine. At least once per week, the hose and mask should be properly cleaned to prevent the accumulation of dust, mold, and bacteria.

While many choose to clean their CPAP and BiPAP machines with water and soap or vinegar, the process can be tedious and time consuming. Using this method isn’t always the most effective for cleaning the inside of the hose either.

A more convenient and thorough way to clean your equipment is the use of an ozone cleaner.

What is ozone?

Ozone, also known as “activated oxygen,” is highly reactive to contaminants. Ozone is highly effective in killing mold, viruses, bacteria, and more. It is an excellent choice for cleaning CPAP/BiPAP because it doesn’t require much effort by the user.

What is Sleep8?

Sleep8 is an easy-to-use ozone cleaning system for CPAP and BiPAP components. Your parts are placed into a special bag and hooked up to the Sleep8 device. Simply press the button and walk away. The closed system sanitizes your components while you go about your day.

Whether you own a CPAP or BiPAP machine, Sleep8 is a practical and powerful solution for keeping your parts clean.

Have questions? Check out our FAQs page or reach out to customer support.


Written by: Amanda Peterson

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