What is the Difference Between BiPAP and CPAP Therapy?
by Dr. Scott Bolding
BiPAP and CPAP Therapy
If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you know how important it is to get it treated. OSA can affect your life in a number of ways. Daytime sleepiness makes it hard to pay attention at work or school. You miss out on a lot of your life because you’re just so tired all the time. Sleep apnea can also have a major impact on your health long-term.
There are several treatment options available for sleep apnea. The most popular is CPAP therapy. If you’ve already talked to your doctor about sleep apnea they’ve most likely already mentioned CPAP. CPAP therapy has become the gold standard for treating sleep apnea.
However, not everyone can tolerate a CPAP machine. So they need other treatment options. If you find that you struggle to use your CPAP machine or if you haven’t seen the results you’d like, your doctor may recommend BiPAP therapy instead. Even though they’re similar, there is a difference between BiPAP and CPAP therapies.
In this post, we will look at the difference between BiPAP and CPAP. Our goal is to help you figure out which type of therapy is best for your situation. As always, the right one for you depends on what your needs are. You should talk all of this over with your doctor before making a decision.
What is CPAP Therapy?First of all let’s understand what CPAP therapy is. CPAP stands for continuous positive air pressure. It was invented in 1980 by Dr. Colin Sulivan. Before the CPAP, the only way to really treat sleep apnea was by using a tracheostomy, which involved surgically creating a hole in the windpipe. CPAP therapy is much less invasive and thus ideal for treating sleep apnea. A CPAP machine is made up of several components:
- Mask with adjustable straps
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The motor creates pressurized air, which is then blown through the hose into the mask. Masks can either go into your nose or over your mouth, depending on your needs. The pressurized air creates a cushion that keeps your airway open. By keeping the airway open the CPAP machine reduces the number of apnea episodes you have during the night.
What is BiPAP Therapy?
Now that we understand how CPAP works, let’s look at how BiPAP is different.
BiPAP therapy is actually very similar to CPAP. It has a mask, motor, and hose. The machine creates pressurized air that keeps your airway open while you sleep. Like CPAP therapy, BiPAP machines are also used to treat obstructive sleep apnea.
So, how is BiPAP different from CPAP?
BiPAP stands for bilevel positive air pressure. The bilevel part is where the difference lies. CPAP machines blow air at a steady pressure all night long. BiPAP machines have two levels of pressure, one for inhaling and one for exhaling. When you breathe in the pressure stays at one level, but when you breathe out the pressure drops down.
A BiPAP machine has three different settings for when the pressure changes take place:
- Spontaneous – automatically senses when your breathing changes and adjusts accordingly.
- Timed – the pressure changes are preset.
- Spontaneous timed – follows your natural breathing patterns but the timed switch turns on when it senses that you have dropped below a set number of breaths per minute.
When Would Someone Need CPAP vs BiPAP Therapy?
When Would Someone Need CPAP Therapy?
As we’ve already noted, CPAP therapy is the main treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It’s the least invasive treatment option available. Therefore it’s often the first treatment considered for OSA patients.
There are many benefits of choosing CPAP therapy. The biggest is just the fact that it lets you get the sleep you need.
Apnea episodes tend to occur so often at night that you aren’t able to go into deep REM sleep. This means your body isn’t getting the rest it needs. CPAP therapy keeps the airway open so you are able to get deeper, more restful sleep.
When Would Someone Need BiPAP Therapy?
Since CPAP is so effective in treating sleep apnea, BiPAP is only recommended in specific situations.
The most common time when you need BiPAP therapy is if you can’t tolerate your CPAP machine. You may find it hard to exhale when using their CPAP machine. Breathing in is just fine. But because the air pressure remains the same, as you breathe out it can find some resistance. This can lead to feeling like you’re choking on air.
BiPAP therapy resolves this issue by having different pressure levels when you breathe in and out. The pressure is a bit higher when you inhale. Then, as you exhale the pressure goes down. The lower pressure makes it easier for you to push air out.
Another time you might want to consider BiPAP therapy is if you have central sleep apnea instead of OSA. Central sleep apnea is different from obstructive sleep apnea in that the cause is usually neurological. With central sleep apnea, your brain isn’t sending the right signals to the muscles that control your breathing. So you stop breathing completely, even though there’s no obstruction.
In some situations, you can have both OSA and CSA, this is known as complex sleep apnea. In this case, your OSA is treated with CPAP therapy, but you’re still struggling to breathe while you sleep. So you’ll need to use a BiPAP to help treat central sleep apnea.
Brannon, D. (2022, September 21). CPAP vs. BiPAP Differences: How To Know if You Need a BiPAP Machine. CPAP.com Blog. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://www.cpap.com/blog/difference-bipap-cpap/
Deshong, A. (2022, September 9). BiPAP vs. CPAP. The Sleep Doctor. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://thesleepdoctor.com/cpap/bipap-vs-cpap/#:%7E:text=What%20is%20BiPAP%3F,pressure%20and%20an%20exhale%20pressure.
Fountain, L. (2022, July 19). CPAP vs BiPAP. Sleep Foundation. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/cpap/cpap-vs-bipap
BiPAP vs CPAP Therapy
Get the Sleep You Need
Even though they are similar, there is a difference between BiPAP and CPAP therapies. CPAP is the most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. However, there are times when a BiPAP is more appropriate. BiPAP therapy is best if you struggle to breathe with your CPAP machine or if you have central sleep apnea.
Figuring out which one you need can be tricky. You need to do some good research and talk everything through with one of our sleep apnea specialists. We will help you make the right decision so you can finally get the sleep you need.