All You Need to Know About Buying a CPAP Machine.
At Intus Healthcare we specialise in therapies for Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) such as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).
It is estimated that 1.5 million people in the UK have OSA, and 700,000 people use a CPAP machine. If you are looking for a CPAP machine for you or a partner and are unsure where to start, let us walk you through the the choices. At the end of this article we hope that you will have all the information you need to decide on the right CPAP machine for you.
If you are still unsure about what a CPAP machine is or what it does, check out this earlier article.
Fixed-pressure CPAP machines (CPAP)
Fixed pressure CPAP devices were the original CPAP therapy machines; these devices stay at one specific pressure all the time. The pressure is setting is prescribed by your sleep clinic or your doctor. The pressure you require is calculated based on the results of a sleep study.
If you have been provided with a fixed-pressure setting by your clinic or GP, then you should be looking for a fixed-pressure machine.
Automatic CPAP machines (APAP)
Automatic Positive Airway Pressure (APAP) machines automatically change pressure throughout the night.
Most CPAP machine users won’t have a specific pressure setting so an automatic machine, often known as APAP (wrongly, see below for a boring explanation) is the most suitable option.
Automatic machines have a range of sensors built-in that allow the machine to calculate how much pressure you require at any given time. It can detect when you are about to stop breathing and raises the pressure accordingly, and once the event has passed, the machine will automatically reduce the pressure down again.
If you have not been prescribed a fixed-pressure setting (for example, 12cmH2O), then you can choose an Automatic CPAP Machine. If you have, you can either choose a fixed-pressure machine at that setting or choose an Auto-CPAP machine.
Note: Why is the term APAP technically wrong? Well, CPAP stands for “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure”. An Automatic machine still provides continuous pressure, but the level of that pressure simply fluctuates – it never actually stops, so removing the “Continuous” part of CPAP is wrong. The correct name is Automatic CPAP or Auto-CPAP.
When using an auto-CPAP machine, on average, you will get less pressure throughout the night than you would with a fixed-pressure machine, but the pressure you get will be at the right time. Many users find an automatic CPAP machine to be more comfortable and more effective as a result. The ResMed AirSense 10 is one of the most popular options.
Is noise a factor when choosing a CPAP machine?
The short answer is yes. A common concern when beginning CPAP therapy is the noise of the device. All CPAP machines make an element of noise as they are continuously blowing out air. However, modern machines have come a long way and the noise is down to a very low level. All of the CPAP machines we provide are tested to ensure they are quieter than 30db.
The noise from your machine goes unnoticed when compared to the usual loudness of snoring.
Do I need a humidifier?
No, you can use your machine without a humidifier however humidification holds many benefits to increase comfort.
CPAP humidifiers are excellent options if you have trouble sleeping with your current unit. They are also worthwhile recommendations if you sleep in a cool and dry environment. If you have been struggling with your current CPAP unit or if you constantly wake up throughout the night, it is wise to take a look at the different humidifiers available.
Let’s not forget that the primary intention of CPAP therapy is to provide you with a good night of sleep. The addition of a cutting-edge humidifier can represent a very effective comfort option to relieve the following side effects.
- Preventing your throat, mouth and nose from becoming dry
- Decreasing the chances of nasal congestion
- Sinus relief
- Warm, moist airway pressure
Humidifiers are not always built-in to every CPAP machine. Often these are extra options which fit to your choice of machine.
CPAP machines with a built-in humidifier
If you want a humidifier, then it could be worth considering a CPAP machine with a humidifier built-in. These add greater convenience and are often more compact than having two separate units (one machine and one humidifier).
What are my options for a CPAP mask?
You have a variety of options when choosing your mask, and the wide variety is designed so that everyone can find the right mask for them. The types of mask available include Full-face masks, Nasal Pillows, Nasal Cushion masks and hybrid masks.
We provide a comprehensive guide the types of mask available here.
How do I know what CPAP mask it right for me?
Masks are designed to work with your style of sleeping. For example, if you sleep on your back, you would choose a different style to someone who sleeps on their side. If you breathe in and out through your mouth, your choice of mask would be different to someone who breathes through their nose.
To determine which mask type you need check out this guide – How to choose a CPAP mask (4 steps).
Can I use any mask with my CPAP machine?
All masks and machines use a universal connection, so you can choose any combination of CPAP Mask and CPAP machine you wish. They are all cross-compatible.
What is a ramp feature on a CPAP machine?
Most CPAP machines have a ‘ramp’ feature. This feature allows you to start your therapy at a lower air pressure setting, and the machine gradually builds up to the air pressure to your required setting.
The ramp feature makes it easier for you to fall asleep.
On certain machines, you can choose how long the ramp feature runs, but it is standard for most CPAP machines to have a ramp feature set to between 0-45 minutes.
What is exhalation pressure relief (EPR) on a CPAP machine?
Exhalation pressure relief (EPR) is a feature found on a few CPAP machines. It lowers the pressure provided during exhalation so that you do not have to push against the machine as much. It makes your breathing more natural and is particularly useful for those with higher pressure requirements.
Whether you need this feature is entirely down to your personal preference. If the machine you choose has this feature, but you do not want to use it, it can be disabled in the settings.
For example, if you have the ResMed AirSense 10, there is an EPR setting in the options menu and you can rotate the dial for on or off.
Can I travel with my CPAP Machine?
There are two main things to consider. Firstly, the size and weight of your CPAP machine, and secondly, how the CPAP Machine will be powered. CPAP machines are now far more compact than they ever used to be, so even the bigger ones are impressively small.
If you have mains power, then you can choose whatever machine you like. However, if you will be away from mains power (for example, while camping), then a machine that can run off of a 12V source, such as a battery, would be an excellent idea. This allows you to continue getting your therapy regardless of your location. Always double-check that the CPAP Machine you want can run off of 12V power if you need this option.
However if you are a frequent traveller you may wish to consider a travel CPAP machine, which can easily be carried in your hand luggage. The AirMini travel CPAP machine by ResMed, for example, can fit in the palm of your hand and does not even require a power brick. In terms of size and weight, it is ideal for travel use.
If you want to know more about travelling with CPAP – Tips for travelling with Sleep Apnoea.
A comprehensive guide to understanding your CPAP machine – What are the numbers on my CPAP machine, and what do they mean?
If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.