When you are prescribed a CPAP machine, there are three types of machines that you can use to treat sleep apnea: automatic pressure machines, fixed pressure machines, and bi-level machines. While these devices can all reliably treat sleep apnea, they do function slightly differently. Oftentimes patients with similar forms of sleep apnea prefer very different machines, and to help you choose which CPAP is right for your therapy, we decided to break down each of your options.
Bi-level machines deserve their own category. These devices blow air at two different intervals for patients who need inspiratory and expiratory relief, and a bi-level could be either automatic pressured or fixed pressured. Fixed pressure machines are exactly what the name implies: they blow air at a constant pressure throughout the night, a rate of pressure that can only be changed manually. Finally, automatic pressure CPAP machines will adjust pressure throughout the night, depending on the needs of the patient. These machines offer patients enhanced comfort and compliance but also provide a number of benefits that you might not be aware of. Below, we’ve highlighted two of what we feel are the most important attributes you’ll find in an automatic machine.
When you take a test to determine whether or not you have sleep apnea, you have the option of undergoing an observed study in a local sleep clinic or taking an at home sleep examination. One of the advantages to taking a test in a clinic is that the diagnosticians can help prescribe an exact CPAP pressure: if you have sleep apnea, they can determine what the correct pressure for you is.
However, if you take an at home test, you won’t be able to tell how severe your sleep apnea is: the test is only able to determine whether you have sleep apnea and can’t prescribe a perfect therapy for treating the disease. This can be problematic for patients looking at fixed pressure machines, as they won’t be able to reliably determine the pressure they need. Auto machines solve this problem. Automatic devices constantly monitor each patient’s breath and vary pressure depending on what is needed in the moment. One of the side benefits of the auto is that it can quickly determine the pressure you need. Thus, if you need a CPAP machine and don’t know what pressure you need to treat your sleep apnea, you should be able to receive reliable treatment from an automatic device without undergoing a thorough sleep study.
As we mentioned above, the auto CPAP machine is capable of finding your requisite pressure even when you don’t know what you need. This is also advantageous if your therapy requires a different pressure over time. Sleep apnea isn’t a static condition and the disease’s severity will wax and wane over time, oftentimes with a patient’s weight. As the condition changes, you may find that you need to adjust your CPAP machine, which is much easier to do with an automatic device than a manual machine.
To change the pressure in a manual machine, the patient has to — as you might imagine — change the pressure setting on the device itself. Many patients don’t know how to do this, as most machines are already set up when they arrive in the mail. This won’t be an issue for patients with automatic machines, however, because these devices are always working to identify the precise pressure the user requires. With an automatic machine, your requisite pressure can change fairly often over a number of years without you skipping a beat in your therapy!