Types of Sleep Apnea Machines

If you’re new to having sleep apnea and treating it with different types of CPAP machines, you may be confused by seeing different terminology for apnea treatment therapies on websites such as this one. CPAP, BiPAP, and APAP, for instance—what do all of these acronyms mean?

All three are types of airway pressure therapy for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). All three describe devices that, in conjunction with a CPAP mask and tubing, provide a gentle flow of pressurized, filtered air to keep your airway splinted open. All the three types of CPAP machines use this air to keep obstructions from blocking your capacity to breathe when you’re asleep.

However, the acronyms themselves stand for variations in how the air pressure is used to help keep your airway open and to support sleep breathing.

The acronyms for the different kinds of sleep apnea machines, and what they stand for:

CPAP Mask Types

CPAP machines remains the gold standard for treating obstructive sleep apnea

CPAP: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. With CPAP, an air pressure level is prescribed by your doctor, and this pressure maintains itself constantly, without variation, throughout your sleep.

You breathe in with the support of this pressure setting, and you exhale against this same pressure setting (if your mouth and nose are both covered by your mask, that is). CPAP remains the gold standard for treating OSA and is the most common choice of the apnea therapy device.

CPAP therapy can treat obstructive sleep apnea by maintaining the airway open. If you have apnea, you likely have excess throat tissue that loses tone and relaxes during sleep, falling backward and blocking your capacity to breathe. Utilizing a CPAP keeps your airway open throughout the night, preventing these Apnea events.

Additionally, CPAP can treat Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). Instead of experiencing a full blockage, you have a reduction in your air intake because your airway is crowded as a result of a buildup of loose tissue.

BiPAP: Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure. As the name infers, a BiPAP machine offers two airway pressure levels, so you can have two different settings. For instance, your inspiratory setting, or the pressure level you inhale (called IPAP) can be set at a higher pressure than the pressure at which you exhale, a.k.a. your expiratory pressure setting (EPAP).

An APAP device uses computer algorithms to determine what air pressure you require at any given moment, depending on variables like your body position or how your breathing changes during various sleep stages. If you have sleep breathing patterns that vary throughout the night, this form of therapy may be more comfortable.

Different Types of CPAP Masks

APAP type of CPAP is a good option for people who want to get started with therapy now

APAP: Automatic Airway Pressure. An APAP is automated to work within a pre-set pressure array. Your doctor programs the machine for high and low pressure, and the machine fluctuates between these throughout your sleep as needed.

APAP is also a good option for people who want to get started with therapy right away, without delaying a titration study to determine the ideal single air pressure for their needs. Some users appreciate using an APAP or AutoSet device because of its flexibility; whereas a CPAP cannot function like an APAP, an APAP machine can be set to perform like a CPAP, utilizing a single continuous air pressure setting.


What’s the difference between a CPAP, BiPAP (BPAP), or APAP? All three benefits to open your airway and enable breathing. All three types of CPAP machines offer positive airway pressure to help reduce apnea events when you sleep. While CPAP is the standard therapy for most people with apnea, BiPAP, and APAP may provide greater comfort if you have variable breathing patterns or respiratory conditions that make exhaling against a higher pressure uncomfortable.

References and Resources