A buyer's guide to CPAP machines

Posted by Lighthouse Staff on

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy is the most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. A CPAP machine delivers pressurized air through your nose and/or mouth to prevent your airway from narrowing or closing when you sleep. The device consists of three parts:

  • A machine that pumps room air at a set pressure;
  • A hose to deliver the pressurized air, and
  • A mask that delivers the air into your airways.

 

A Drive DeVilbiss Intellipap 2 CPAP machine with autoadjust feature and heated humidification system.

A Drive DeVilbiss Intellipap 2 CPAP machine with autoadjust feature and heated humidification system.

Who makes the machine?

Look for a device from a reputable manufacturer. Drive DeVilbiss, Philips Respironics and Resmed make excellent CPAP machines. We like the Devilbiss Intellipap 2 device because it is very easy to use and reliable, consistently earning top reviews from customers. You can watch the video about using the CPAP and learn more about the Drive DeVilbiss Intellipap 2 CPAP machine here.

Which features do you need?

  • Quiet. All CPAP machines today are made whisper quiet (below 30 db.). However, some are quieter than others. If sound is your issue, make sure to check the decibel levels of each machine.
  • Humidifier. Having air continuously blown into your airways can lead to dryness and irritation. This is why many CPAP machines now include a standard, not optional, humidifier. Some machines have built-in humidifiers while others come with a separate, connecting unit. Having a humidifier that can separate from the machine can be useful for travel when you do not want to take the entire machine. For example, Intellipap 2 from Drive DeVilbiss comes with a humidifier than can be separated.
  • Portability. If you travel often, having a small and lightweight machine may be your best option, or you may want to buy a separate machine for travel purposes. Check to see if your machine can work with both a 110 and 220 volt plug, if you travel internationally (most machines nowadays do).
  • Ramp. When you first put your CPAP mask on at night and turn the machine on, it may be difficult to quickly get used to the airflow of your pressure settings. This is especially true if you have moderate to severe sleep apnea, which requires relatively high pressure. A ramp is a comfort feature that allows your machine to gradually build-up to the prescribed pressure, making falling asleep much easier.
  • Exhalation pressure relief. This feature makes it easier to exhale, or breathe out against the incoming pressurized air, making breathing feel more normal and easier. The machine maintains the prescribed air pressure settings during inhalation, but turns them down a bit during exhalation so you do not feel like you are fighting against the incoming air.
  • Mask On/Off Alert. Some sleepers toss and turn during sleep. When this happens, their mask may come off or lose its seal. Some machines have an alert that wakes up the sleeper, reminding them that their mask needs adjustment.
  • Leak Compensation. If your mask is leaking for any reason, machines with this feature can compensate by increasing the airflow to ensure that you are still getting the prescribed pressure.
  • Data Recording. Many machines come with data recording capabilities. Some record only information such as how long you used the machine at night, while others are capable of giving much more in-depth information such as: apnea events, hypopnea events, changes in pressure, leak rates, and information on snoring, and more. You can check the daily, weekly and monthly averages. Many of the devices allow users to view their personal data information, while others are restricted for clinical viewing only. Some machines save data is saved onto a memory card, which will occasionally need to be brought in to a clinic for viewing. Other machines allow bluetooth connectivity and remote monitoring.

Choosing a face mask

Nasal pillow masks are light and small. This is ideal for patients with claustrophobia or those who feel uncomfortable with bulkier masks. It is easier to read and wear glasses before bedtime with a nasal pillow mask. Direct airflow into the nasal passages can reduce air leakage. These masks are good for active sleepers who toss and turn a lot, and work well for users who have a lot of facial hair that may cause leakage in other mask types. However, these are not ideal for patients with higher-pressure needs, as the airflow is very direct and may cause discomfort at higher pressure settings. Some users find the direct air pressure leads to higher incidences of nasal dryness. Nasal pillow masks are not ideal for mouth-breathers. However, if you are a mouth-breather and really want to wear a nasal pillow, try using it with a chin-strap.

Aloha nasal pillow CPAP mask

Full face masks cover the nose and mouth and all, or part, of the face. Face masks are ideal for mouth-breathers and those who did not get good results with the nasal mask/chinstrap combination. They are great for patients who have nasal blockage or congestion due to allergies or cold symptoms. These masks feel better with high CPAP pressure settings because the wide surface area of the mask distributes the air flow, but have a higher chance of leakage. Face masks work well for back sleepers. However, some users report air leakage near the top of the mask, causing dry, irritated eyes. Most claustrophobic patients do not tolerate the full face mask. Full face masks also make it difficult to read or watch TV in bed or wear glasses.

Full CPAP face mask

Hybrid face masks cover the mouth but also have nasal prongs that fit into the nostrils like a nasal pillow. They work similarly to the full face masks but with the advantage of not covering the nose and not getting close to the eyes.

Fitting your mask and setting up your device

Your medical supplier can fit your mask and enter the settings that your doctor prescribed. Alternatively, some doctors perform the fitting for their patients. At Lighthouse Medical, we have both options; some patients prefer to have our partner physician perform the fitting and set-up.

How to get your CPAP device and start sleeping restfully

See a doctor. Your doctor will take your history, do a physical examination and likely perform a sleep study to see if you have sleep apnea. Gather your paperwork: prescription for CPAP device, copy of your sleep study results and your health insurance information. You will need these to get your CPAP machine. Call a medical supplier you can trust to set you up with the equipment, fit your mask and provide training in the use of the machine.

Fitting your mask and setting up your device

Your medical supplier can fit your mask and enter the settings that your doctor prescribed. Alternatively, some doctors perform the fitting for their patients. At Lighthouse Medical, we have both options; some patients prefer to have our partner physician perform the fitting and set-up.

How to get your CPAP device and start sleeping restfully

See a doctor. Your doctor will take your history, do a physical examination and likely perform a sleep study to see if you have sleep apnea. Gather your paperwork: prescription for CPAP device, copy of your sleep study results and your health insurance information. You will need these to get your CPAP machine. Call or email a medical supplier you can trust to set you up with the equipment, fit your mask and provide training in the use of the machine.


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