CPAP (and BiLevel) Therapy Basics

The most popular treatment options for Sleep Apnea is CPAP (and BiLevel) Therapy. Before you begin treatment, it is a good idea to become familiar with your device and how it works. The general information below will help you learn more about therapy basics. Specifics about your setup should be available in the manuals that came with your mask or machine.

The Device

The primary component of any CPAP or BiLevel therapy solution is the device or machine. The machine delivers a steady, gentle flow of air throughout the night to provide you with Postive Airway Pressure (PAP) therapy.

cpap machineHistorically PAP therapy devices were large, cumbersome, medical machines that could be disconcerting and loud to live with. In recent years though manufacturer's have revolutionized PAP therapy with smaller, quieter, less medical looking machines.

Modern comfort and lifestyle features like heated humidifiers, battery packs, DC power options, heated tubing, pressure relief, clocks and even built in music players have made PAP machines much easier to live with at home and on the road. Click here to learn more about the latest CPAP & BiLevel Machines from ResMed, Respironics, Fisher & Paykel, and DeVilbiss Healthcare.

The Tubing

A long tube -- usually 6, 8 or 10 feet -- carries air from your PAP device to a mask that delivers the air to you. Most PAP machines use Standard 22MM Tubing that has universal connectors so that any tubing will work with any mask and device.

cpap tubeIn recent years manufacturer's have begun to add heated and slim 15MM tubing options to their devices. Heated and slim 15MM tubing generally has a universal connector at the mask end and a proprietary, brand specific, connection at the device end.

PAP Therapy tubing is semi-disposable. You should clean and inspect your tubing at least once a week to make sure it is clean, pliable, and free of tears. If the tubing begins to look worn it should be replaced to ensure proper therapy is being received.

Many PAP Therapy users add soft flee wraps, tubing clips, and other accessories to their tubing to create a more personal, comfortable and welcoming sleep therapy experience. Click here to learn more about the latest CPAP & BiLevel Tubing and Comfort Accessories.

The Mask

Masks are used to deliver the air from the therapy device to you. A comfortable mask is a key factor in being able to use your treatment daily. Therefore, finding a mask that fits your and your lifestyle is important. Most masks have built-in exhalation ports that vent your exhaled air.

There are six primary types of PAP masks -- Nasal Cushion, Nasal Pillow/Prong, Full Face, Total Face, Oral, and Hybrid -- with many designs from different manufacturers for each type. Most people describe these masks as "CPAP Masks" however they are all universally compatible with both CPAP and BiLevel Machines.

As with any personal product your own wants and needs will dictate which mask style and design works best for you. Once you have found your "perfect mask," it is important to maintain it properly. Consult your mask manual for proper maintenance and cleaning instructions. Inspect your mask often for wear and tear. If you think it is ready for replacement, contact your homecare provider. If replacement is needed, most health plans provide coverage for a new mask every three to six months.

Nasal Cushion Masks
cpap maskThe most common type of CPAP Mask is the nasal cushion mask which covers the nose and area of the face just surrounding it. Nasal masks are ideal for patients who are comfortable breathing through the nose. If you find you breath through your mouth then consider adding a chinstrap to your nasal mask or switching to an alternative design that allows breathing through both the nose and mouth. Click here to view more Nasal Cushion Masks.

Nasal Pillow Masks
cpap maskIn recent years nasal pillow masks have become increasingly popular due to the minimal contact they require on the face, nose, and nasal bridge. Nasal pillow masks use small cushions, pillows or prongs that are inserted into the nostrils to deliver therapy air directly into the nose. Most nasal pillow mask packages come with multiple pillow sizes so that you can try several at home to find your best fit. Click here to view more Nasal Pillow Masks.

Full Face Masks
cpap maskFor people who prefer to breathe through both the mouth and nose Full Face Masks are usually the best option. Full face masks deliver therapy air to both the nose and mouth and by necessity they are generally more bulky than nasal masks. Click here to view more Full Face Masks.

Total Face Masks
cpap maskTotal Face Masks are a special type of full face mask that covers the entire face -- including the nose, mouth and eyes -- with a clear shell. The unique design of Total Face masks mean that there is very little facial contact at all from the mask or cushion. Total Face Masks are a good option patients with facial irregularities, nasal bridge breakdown, or claustrophobia. Click here to view more Total Face Masks.

Hybrid Masks
cpap maskAnother subsection of full face masks is Hybrid Masks. Hybrid masks combine a mouth cushion with nasal pillows to create a full face mask that requires less facial contact and coverage than traditional full face cushion masks. Hybrid masks are a good option for people who experience pain at the nasal bridge or excessive leaking when using a traditional full face mask. Click here to view more Hybrid Masks.

Oral Masks
cpap maskFor patients who have problems breathing through their nose, or simply prefer to breathe through their mouth, Oral masks provide a good alternative to nasal or full face cushion masks. Oral masks require very little headgear or facial contact and work like a snorkel used in SCUBA diving. Oral masks may lead to excessive throat dryness so a heated humidifier should always be used when sleeping with an Oral mask. Click here to view more Oral Masks.

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