Continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP), is used to treat the symptoms of sleep apnea. A CPAP machine cannot be obtained without documentation from a sleep study, confirming your suitability to use it.

CPAP therapy works by applying a constant stream of air to your airways, preventing them from closing and causing a blockage. This therefore prevents apneas from occurring during the night, meaning that sufferers can experience a better quality of sleep.

CPAP therapy consists of three main pieces of equipment. These include:

  • A CPAP mask – A CPAP mask delivers the constant air pressure from the CPAP machine to your airways. Different mask styles are available so you can find the correct mask for your individual breathing style. There are a range of masks that cover just your nose, just your mouth, or even a full face option covering both areas of your face.
  • A CPAP tube – A CPAP tube is required to connect the mask to machine monitor, in order to transport the pressurised air.
  • A CPAP machine – A CPAP machine provides a constant stream of air, dependant on the amount of air pressure needed to clear the obstruction, in order to prevent apneas from occurring.
Automatic vs. Fixed Pressure CPAP Machines
Automatic vs. Fixed Pressure CPAP Machines

What is the difference between a fixed pressure machine and an automatic machine?

There are two types of CPAP machines that you can choose from, a fixed pressure machine or automatic CPAP machine. To obtain a CPAP machine, you will need to show documentation to your supplier. The documentation should state your suitability to use a CPAP machine, and the fixed pressure required, if choosing a fixed pressure machine.

A fixed pressure machine is set at the fixed pressure as shown on your documentation from your sleep study results. It provides one constant stream of pressure throughout the night to keep your airways open, preventing apneas from occurring.

An automatic CPAP machine is set at a variable setting so the pressure can adjust accordingly to what you need at any given time during the night, in order to prevent apneas from occurring. To obtain an automatic CPAP machine, your documentation only needs to confirm your diagnosis of OSA and state your suitability for using a CPAP machine.

Other than the three main components of CPAP therapy, will I need to purchase anything else?

Other than the three essential components of CPAP therapy listed above, there are only optional accessories that you can purchase separately if you desire. These include:

  • A CPAP humidification system might be beneficial to you if you find that your CPAP therapy leaves you waking up with a dry mouth, sore nasal passages or find the air too cold to breathe. The humidifier provides warmth and moisture to the air in order to reduce dryness in the nose and throat.
  • A CPAP hose lift can help ensure your mask doesn’t get tangled when you move during the night, as well as reducing the weight of the long hose, which usually can cause leakage and discomfort.
  • Rainout fleece tubes act as an insulator for your tube. They can reduce the difference in temperature and help reduce the airflow noise from the hose.
  • RemZzzs Liners are helpful in increasing the comfort of your mask. They can reduce red marks or air leaks with your CPAP mask. It uses a soft cotton fabric which creates a soft barrier and absorbs skin oils that could otherwise cause deterioration to your mask.

I’m not sure what CPAP mask to choose from. What is the difference between each mask style?

Choose a CPAP mask that fits your breathing style, whether nasal or oral.
Choose a CPAP mask that fits your breathing style, whether nasal or oral.

Nasal Pillows – Sits against the nostrils using small cones.
Advantages:

  • Allows full field of vision.
  • Effective if you feel claustrophobic in a full face mask.
  • Provides enough space to wear glasses.
  • Comfortable for side sleepers.

Nasal Cushion – uses a cushion to sit around the nose only.
Advantages:

  • Effective for those who breathe through their nose at night.

Oral – provides air through the mouth only.
Advantages:

  • A great solution for mouth breathers and patients with chronic nasal obstruction.
  • Easy to use and easy to seal.
  • Provides freedom of movement.

Full Face – covers the mouth and nose. 
Advantages:

  • Good for those unsure how to breathe or those with sinus or nasal issues.
  • For greater support and stability a forehead support is uses. Some also may use a chin cup to stop the mouth opening.

Hybrid Mask – uses a combination of oral mask and nasal pillows.
Advantages:

  • Eliminates pressure points on the forehead and across the nose.
  • Supports the chin ensuring optimal performance using a built in chip flap.

Total Face – sits around the whole perimeter of the face.
Advantages:

  • Face-plate does not obstruct the user’s vision.
  • Better option for those who experience discomfort or skin issues.

How can I obtain a CPAP machine, as I think I am at risk of sleep apnoea?

CPAP machines can only be obtained once a sleep study has confirmed that the patient has OSA. A sleep study can either be conducted by going through the NHS, or by taking a private at-home sleep study. Once you have your sleep study results, you will then be advised whether CPAP therapy would be suitable for your condition.