APAP vs CPAP: Sleep apnea treatments explained

What is APAP? If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, APAP is a term you may have come across. It may even be used to describe the treatment therapy you’ve been prescribed. But what does it mean?

An abbreviation of automatic positive airway pressure, APAP is one of the three main forms of positive airway pressure, or PAP therapy. Positive airway pressure therapy is pretty much just what it sounds like: a means of delivering pressure (air) to your airway (your mouth, nose and/or throat) to help you breathe.

There are three main types of positive airway pressure therapy:

All of these types of PAP therapy usually take the form of a machine or device. In turn, that machine is connected to a mask via a tube, and the mask is worn by the sleep apnea patient to deliver the air generated by the machine.

How APAP is different than CPAP

What is APAP technology in comparison to CPAP? While CPAP delivers one continuous pressure level of air, APAP automatically adjusts to meet each specific person’s breathing needs, which often change throughout the night as we move in and out of different stages of sleep.

How does the APAP machine know how to make these automatic adjustments? By constantly measuring how much resistance is present in your breathing on a breath-by-breath level, APAP technology knows whether to decrease pressure when your upper airway is stable, and increase pressure when it senses an airway event (such as an apnea, a hypopnea, flow limitation or snoring).

Unlike a CPAP device, APAP machines only deliver the amount of pressure that’s necessary at any given moment. Physicians sometimes find that patients with more complex sleep apnea conditions (such as REM-related apnea or positional apnea), or who simply cannot get used to standard CPAP therapy, may experience better results with APAP therapy.

Looking for an example of an APAP machine? ResMed’s AutoSet™ technology — available in the AirSense™ 10 AutoSet™, AirSense™ 10 AutoSet™ for Her and AirMini™ AutoSet, for example — was engineered to dynamically adjust pressure to provide maximum comfort for sleep apnea patients.

This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.

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