BiPAP vs. CPAP: What Are The Differences?

BIPAP vs CPAP therapy

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with a sleep disorder, you may be looking into your different treatment options. One question many people have is what is the difference between BiPAP and CPAP? Both types of therapy provide support to people with difficulty breathing during sleep, however, there are major differences between the two regarding how they work, what they treat, and who they are right for.

What is CPAP Therapy?

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the standard treatment method for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This treatment involves using a machine while you sleep that provides support to help keep your airway open. 

CPAP machines provide a constant flow of pressurized air that enters your body through a face mask. This allows for uninterrupted breathing and quality sleep among people struggling with obstructive sleep apnea. One common complaint people have about CPAP therapy is that it is difficult for some to exhale against the continuous air pressure.

Another type of machine that may provide CPAP therapy is an APAP machine. APAP machines are similar to CPAP machines, however, they have a setting that allows the pressure to adjust automatically based on your breathing patterns throughout the night. APAP machines often have a CPAP mode that will supply constant airway pressure, as well. 

What is BiPAP Therapy?

BiPAP is a trademarked abbreviation by Respironics, a manufacturer, for bilevel positive airway pressure. Other companies, like ResMed, refer to bilevel positive airway pressure machines as VPAP.

Bilevel simply means that air can be delivered at two different pressures that the machine can alternate between. BiPAP machines allow people to breathe in air with higher pressure while breathing out at a lower pressure. These two pressure settings are referred to as:

  1. IPAP – Inspiratory Positive Airway Pressure (high pressure on inspiration)
  2. EPAP – Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure (lower pressure on expiration)

When you inhale, the IPAP system kicks in to deliver a higher, constant pressure. Then, EPAP is activated when you exhale to deliver air at a lower pressure. This makes it easier to breathe out because it doesn’t force you to fight against incoming air as CPAP machines do.

The Differences Between BiPAP and CPAP

From the outside, BiPAP and CPAP machines look similar. They both use the same type of tubing and face mask. Most face masks are even compatible with both CPAP and BiPAP machines. In addition, both machines and types of therapy also have the same side effects, such as dry mouth, nasal congestion, and skin irritation. Still, there are some distinct differences between the two treatments.

The primary difference between BiPAP and CPAP therapy is the pressure at which air is delivered through the face mask. CPAP machines are set to one single pressure setting while BiPAP machines can be programmed with two different pressures – one for inhaling and one for exhaling.

Due to the different pressure settings, BiPAP therapy may be more comfortable for some people. BiPAP machines can also deliver air at high-pressure settings of up to 25. In comparison, most CPAP machines only deliver pressure settings of up to 15.

Another difference is that although there are compact, portable, travel CPAP machines, there are no sleek and portable BiPAP machines on the market. This can make travel difficult. BiPAP machines also tend to have a larger price tag than CPAP machines.

BiPAP vs. CPAP Therapy: Which Is Right For You?

BiPAP therapy is used to treat several different conditions, including:

  • Central sleep apnea (sleep apnea characterized by pauses in breathing without obstructing the airway)
  • Complex sleep apnea
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Congestive heart failure

It is sometimes used to treat obstructive sleep apnea, particularly in people who are having a difficult time acclimating to their CPAP machine. 

Most people who are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea will be prescribed CPAP therapy. However, if you find that you struggle with comfort, claustrophobia, or falling asleep with your CPAP machine, you may speak to your doctor about switching to a bilevel system.

Choosing between a BiPAP and CPAP will come down to your specific needs. If you have more severe sleep apnea or find it difficult to breathe out against a CPAP, you may be better off with a bilevel system. On the other hand, if you have mild to moderate sleep apnea, a basic CPAP machine on a low setting may work perfectly fine.

The best way to determine whether you need BiPAP or CPAP therapy is to make an appointment with a sleep specialist and participate in a sleep study. Sleep studies can help the specialist come up with the right treatment plan for your needs. They can also monitor you throughout treatment and make adjustments if necessary. 

Shop Respiratory Therapy Supplies Today

Once you’ve participated in a sleep study and have been diagnosed, you’ll begin your research finding the right CPAP or BiPAP machine, face mask, and respiratory accessories. Here at Kelmedix, we aim to be your one-stop-shop for all of your respiratory therapy needs. Head over to our online store today to get started.