APAP vs CPAP: Which Is the Best For Sleep Apnea?

If you've been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, you may be hearing lots of new terms that you're unfamiliar with, including the different types of machines out there to treat your sleep apnea. Having a severe sleep disorder like sleep apnea is already stressful enough, but adding in learning the differences in treatment through APAP machines, BiPAP machines, and CPAP machines, the world of CPAP therapy can be overwhelming. This brings up the major question for many people with sleep apnea: which is better — APAP therapy or CPAP therapy? Well, we're here to break these products down and help you select the best machine for you!

What Are the Different Airway Pressure Machines?

First thing to note, the three main machines that are used for sleep apnea treatment are all "PAP" machines — which stands for Positive Airway Pressure therapy. All of these provide a specific amount of air pressure that assists your body in breathing properly and consistently while you sleep. 

The acronyms for the three machines for positive airway pressure therapy and their definitions are:

  1.  CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure
  2. APAP: Automatic positive airway pressure
  3. BiPAP/VPAP: Bilevel/variable positive airway pressure 

The two most commonly-used and typically most effective machines are CPAP and APAP. Let's go over the differences between the two.

What's the Difference Between a CPAP Machine and an APAP Machine?

The main difference between CPAP machines and APAP machines is really very simple: the air pressure settings. Where CPAP machines have fixed settings, APAPs automatically adjust to your pressure needs throughout your sleep.

CPAP Machines

CPAP machines provide continuous and steady air flow at a set amount of pressure. The preset pressure setting provides the exact amount of air pressure needed to prevent obstructions in your airway as you sleep. This type of machine will work well for someone whose breathing patterns don't fluctuate significantly. Your doctor can help determine if this machine is sufficient for your sleep apnea treatment during a PAP titration study.

APAP Machines

APAP machines adapt the amount of pressure throughout the night. These machines use algorithms to detect and implement the changes in air pressure levels as necessary. They do so by monitoring your respiratory activity, which is beneficial for people who have different breathing patterns throughout the night or whose breathing changes with frequent position switches during sleep. 

APAP may be a better choice because of the convenience of not having to adjust air pressure settings manually, since they're done automatically as you sleep. Also, APAP machines can be used as a CPAP machine, wherein you can have it function at a constant amount of pressure. 

However, APAP machines are not for everyone. APAPs are not recommended for people with cardiac problems or respiratory conditions because of the constant changes in air pressure. Also, APAP machines can cost significantly more than CPAP machines. However, it’s important to keep in mind that APAP machines provide long-term benefits that CPAP machines do not, such as the potential for better insurance coverage, fewer trips to the doctor, and more.

So, Is APAP or CPAP "Better"?

While the most common form of sleep apnea treatment is a CPAP machine, oftentimes an APAP machine is recommended to better suit your needs. However, it's important to consider that, as with any form of medical treatment, there are pros and cons to it.

APAP Pros and Cons

Pros: 

  • There's no need to change the amount of pressure manually since the machine's algorithms do this automatically.
  • They can be more comfortable for users who don't like the types of masks that are required for CPAP therapy.
  • They're great for people whose breathing patterns fluctuate throughout the night.

Cons: 

  • There is a higher chance of air leaks occurring with the APAP mask than with the CPAP masks.
  • Users who need a constant and steady air pressure and airflow may not get as effective of a treatment as they would with a CPAP machine, which provides the same air pressure throughout the entire night.
  • APAP machines cost more than CPAP machines. They can be significantly more expensive depending on functions, sizing, and other features, with prices ranging from $450 to over $1,000.

The Best APAP Machines

AirSense 10 AutoSet

The AirSense 10 is possibly the most popular APAP machine on the planet! It uses an advanced algorithm to always deliver the lowest pressure needed for treatment– so it balances comfort with effective sleep therapy.


Features include:

  • Both APAP and CPAP modes
  • Pressure adjustments are designed to be more natural and gentle
  • Whisper quiet at only 26 dBa
  • Built-in heated humidifier

Z2 Auto Travel CPAP

At only 10.5 ounces the palm-sized Z2 is one of the smallest and lightest APAPs available, but still delivers the powerful PAP therapy you need! Though it’s considered a travel APAP, the Z2 still manages to include advanced comfort features that even some full-sized CPAPs don’t get to boast. 

Features include:

  • Auto Start/Stop with Breath Detection
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Waterless humidification for comfort on-the-go
  • FAA compliant for in-flight use!

Buy the Z2 Auto Travel CPAP

Final Considerations on CPAP vs APAP

If you're experiencing the treatment is ineffective or inadequate for you from one machine, be sure to reach out to your doctor and ask about the other form of treatment! Try to stay up-to-date on the latest innovations in CPAP and APAP machines so you can continuously get the best sleep apnea treatment possible.

Always remember — there are options out there to help you sleep soundly, comfortably, and safely; it's all a matter of finding what fits you best! Check out some of the most highly-rated APAP and CPAP machines available today!

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