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What Are the Different Types of Sleep Apnea Machines?

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines help treat people with sleep apnea.
BiPAP breathing masks can be used to treat sleep apnea.
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  • Written By: Jeremy Laukkonen
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2014
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There are two main machines commonly used to treat the symptoms of sleep apnea, a condition in which an obstructed airway affects a person's breathing during sleep. The most common of these is the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, while the bi-level positive pressure (BiPAP) device may be used in more severe cases. The CPAP is a ventilator that provides positive air pressure to keep a person's airway unobstructed through the night, while the BiPAP ventilator can assist in both inhalation and exhalation.

There are a few variations of these main sleep apnea machines. There also is a technique known as oral appliance therapy (OAT). OAT can sometimes achieve a similar effect to sleep apnea machines by forcing a person's lower jaw forward to keep his or her airway from closing.

CPAP sleep apnea machines function by providing pressurized air to a person's airway while they sleep. This can have the effect of preventing apnea by forcing the airway open, but it will only assist with inhalation. Typical CPAP machines need to be calibrated by a doctor prior to use to provide the correct amount of pressure. The air pressure is what prevents a person's airway from closing, so this calibration can differ from person to person.

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The other main type of sleep apnea machine is the BiPAP device, which is designed to assist in both inhalation and exhalation. This type of sleep apnea machine is able to vary the positive pressure that it applies. A higher pressure can be applied during inhalation, while a lower pressure can be applied during exhalation. This can make a BiPAP device useful in treating some of the more severe cases of sleep apnea. BiPAP devices may sometimes also be referred to as BPAP or variable positive air pressure (VPAP) devices.

There are also a few variations and additional features available for these main sleep apnea machines. Automatic positive airway pressure (APAP) devices are a form of CPAP that can recalibrate automatically throughout the night. This allows the APAP to always provide the precise pressure required to keep the airway open. There are also various options available for CPAP and BiPAP machines, such as one that will humidify and warm the air. CPAP machines also have an option available that can provide a temporary drop in pressure during exhalation that can achieve an effect similar to that of a BiPAP machine.

In certain cases of sleep apnea, a doctor may determine that a non-mechanical dental appliance is the best treatment. While not technically a sleep apnea machine, these OATs can achieve similar results. The treatment involves fitting and placing an appliance in the mouth to force the lower jaw forward during sleep. This forward movement of the jaw can force the airway open and prevent apnea in a manner similar to sleep apnea machines. This method is generally used in less severe cases of sleep apnea if a doctor determines it might be effective.

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irontoenail
Post 3

@croydon - Sleep apnea is pretty dangerous actually, so even if someone doesn't feel like their everyday life is affected much by it, they might still be recommended to use one of these sleep apnea breathing machines, or to use one of the other solutions.

There are natural ways of trying to get rid of sleep apnea, as well, like exercises you can do with your throat to tone up the muscles responsible. I've also heard that singing or playing a wind instrument, particularly one that uses double breathing like a didgeridoo, can help people who suffer from sleep apnea.

croydon
Post 2

@bythewell - I think these kinds of machines are only used as a kind of last resort, because they are pretty expensive. But if you are having that much trouble sleeping from sleep apnea you're probably going to welcome a little bit of difficulty drifting off if it means you sleep well afterwards.

bythewell
Post 1

I don't know how people can sleep hooked up to one of these things every night. I toss and turn so much, at least while I'm trying to get to sleep, I think I would completely unhook it and probably accidentally choke myself in the process.

Not to mention that I don't even like having the blankets tucked in around me, let alone having my face hooked up to something. I guess this is obviously just my own personal preferences, but I still think you'd have to be a good sleeper to manage it with a sleep apnea mask on your face.

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