Sleep Apnea Treatment: What Is PAP Therapy? What to Expect?

pap therapy

When you’re sleeping, if there are frequent pauses in your breathing, then you probably suffer from sleep apnea or sleep disorder, of which OSA (obstructive sleep disorder) is the most common type.

Sleep apnea makes you feel tired and sleepy the next day and it can also lead to several health issues in the long run such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, mental confusion, memory loss, depression, etc. and can even be life threatening.

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, then your doctor may recommend PAP therapy or using breathing machines to aid you in getting the essential oxygen you require at night while sleeping.

What Is PAP Therapy?

Positive airway pressure therapy or PAP therapy is a non-surgical sleep treatment that is usually recommended for people suffering from sleep apnea. PAP therapy essentially provides a continuous stream of compressed air as you sleep to support breathing.

PAP therapy essentially makes use of a machine that pumps compressed air into the lungs, which helps to keep the windpipe open while you sleep.

The device is connected via a tube and blows in the air via the mask or nasal pillows (or nose tubes) that you need to wear while sleeping.

The forced air that is delivered by the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) helps to keep your airway open, preventing it from collapsing so that you can breathe normally.

It is recommended that for best results people with sleep apnea should use the PAP device every time they sleep and even when taking naps.

How Does the CPAP Device Work?

PAP therapy blows air into the airway and keeps it open and prevents any pauses in breathing while you sleep. The CPAP machine is a very small device, which comprises a small air compressor, a tube and a mask.

The device is compact, lightweight and quiet and you can keep it next to your bed or on the nightstand while you sleep.

The mask may either cover only the nose or both the nose and mouth. Alternatively, you can use a nasal pillow, which is fitted in the nostrils. Whether you’re using a mask or nasal pillow, you should ensure that it fits properly and is comfortable.

The mask should have a good fit and seal properly so that there are no leaks and the correct air pressure level is maintained while keeping the airway open all through the night.

The CPAP machine is connected to the mask by the flexible tubing, which is sufficiently long and allows you to turn over in the bed or move around.

Types of PAP Machines

There are mainly 3 types of PAP therapy machines to treat sleep apnea, including CPAP, BiPAP and APAP.


The CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure machine is the most commonly used device for the treatment of mild to moderate sleep apnea. The CPAP machine delivers a uniform level of pressure via the CPAP mask for inhalation as well as exhalation.

This device has one rate of pressure, which is best for people suffering from OSA as the continuous pressure ensures that the airways are open all through the night. The more severe the OSA, the higher the pressure that is needed to prevent any obstruction while sleeping.

CPAP devices are cheaper compared to the other PAP treatments; however, the continuous pressure may cause breathing discomfort. This can be resolved by reducing the pressure rate and if this is still uncomfortable, then you can check with your doctor about APAP or BiPAP machines.


The BiPAP or bilevel positive airway pressure machine is quite similar to the CPAP machine; however, the main difference is that the BiPAP machine uses dual pressures i.e., an IPAP or inhalation pressure and EPAP or exhalation pressure that matches your breathing pattern.

Usually, these inhalation and exhalation pressures adjust automatically so that you can maintain steady breathing. BiPAP machines are ideal for people suffering from CSA or central sleep apnea.

They offer a higher peak pressure flow and so are perfect if you require moderate- or high-pressure ranges. BiPAP machines are not only used for sleep apnea treatment but also ALS and Parkinson’s disease.


Based on how you inhale, the APAP or auto-adjustable positive airway pressure machine offers different pressure rates while you sleep. The machine changes the pressure rate automatically depending on your different sleep stages and sleeping positions.

The machine works on a pressure range of 4-20, which offers excellent flexibility so that you can use the best pressure range for you. The APAP machine is perfect for people whose breathing pattern changes quite often while they sleep, thus requiring different pressure rates.

APAP machines are also ideal for people suffering from seasonal allergies who have congestion, requiring additional pressure and also for people who lose or gain weight, requiring less or more pressure.

Benefits of PAP Therapy

There are several advantages of using PAP therapy and regular use not only helps to prevent any pauses in breathing because of sleep apnea, but it also prevents snoring and choking noises while sleeping.

PAP therapy will help you to sleep comfortably without your body waking up frequently due to a lack of oxygen.

Regular use of the CPAP machine can prevent serious health issues that are linked to sleep apnea like heart disease, stroke, etc. and even reverse them.

It can also help you to sleep better, which ensures that you are better rested, alert and more productive the next day and it can also improve your mood and memory.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, PAP therapy has emerged as an effective and most widely used method to treat sleep apnea. And, as we have discussed, there are many different types of PAP therapy devices in the market and choosing the proper one is very important to manage your sleep apnea condition effectively.

After reading our article, we hope that you now have all the information you need about what PAP therapy is, the differences between the various types of PAP therapy devices that will enable you to choose the best option for your specific condition in consultation with your doctor.


Dan was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2017 when he was only 32 years old. He has been using a BIPAP machine for his treatment. He hopes to provide a patient's perspective on the sleep apnea experience. Dan lives in Tampa with his girlfriend and 2 dogs.

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