People with a diagnosis of sleep apnea will seldom experience a good night’s rest. While sleeping, the muscles relax in the back of the throat, causing the upper airway to collapse or narrow. An airway collapse followed by snoring can lead to periods of disruption in breathing, which is a condition that is called sleep apnea. When these pauses in breathing are frequent enough or long enough, the brain can become deprived of oxygen, which signals the body to gasp, choke or cough, in order to start the breathing cycle. A person may wake up and resume a normal breathing pattern, only to repeat this cycle of breathing interruption continually. If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, your sleep specialist will typically recommend the use of a BIPAP machine, in order to prevent apnea episodes.
CPAP and BIPAP Therapy
Initially, most physicians will prescribe a CPAP machine to treat apnea, because the BIPAP machine isn’t usually covered by a person’s health insurance. Because of this, the BIPAP machine is not as often prescribed as the CPAP machine is. Both types of PAP devices consist of a programmable unit that’s designed to compress air, tubing, and a BIPAP mask and headgear that will attach to the face. The BIPAP machine will deliver a flow of compressed air, just like a CPAP machine, but BIPAP devices feature two levels of air pressure.
Why BIPAP Machine Technology is a Better Option
The BIPAP device is programmed to deliver air at a specific level for inhaling and a lower level when exhaling. When the user exhales, the device will sense the change and switch to a lower pressure. This type of constant air flow to the airway, combined with variable resistance can effectively prevent the airways from collapsing.
The Benefits of BIPAP Machines
People who use CPAP devices have to constantly breathe against high levels of air pressure, which can become uncomfortable. People who use BIPAP therapy won’t have to work hard to exhale against the air pressure. Patients who suffer from respiratory disease or patients who are unable to tolerate the constant high level of air pressure from CPAP devices may be more comfortable using BIPAP therapy.
A BIPAP user will be able to appreciate a more normal sleep cycle, one that’s uninterrupted by snoring or apnea episodes and their partners will be able to enjoy a better night’s rest as well. Studies have shown that people who use BIPAP therapy say they’re more alert, more productive, less drowsy and in a better mood during the day. Additionally, these people will also experience an improvement in concentration and memory. Untreated cases of apnea can cause stroke, heart attacks, hypertension or possibly even death. Using a type of PAP therapy can work to significantly decrease your odds of further health complications.
It will take time to get used to BIPAP therapy and you may feel uncomfortable for the first few weeks of use.
BIPAP Settings and Mask Information
BIPAP therapy can provide apnea sufferers with a restful night, without the worry of apnea episodes causing them to frequently awaken. This type of therapy will involve wearing a mask as the BIPAP machine delivers a steady flow of air into the lungs. The BIPAP settings are commonly based on the results of your sleep study and are set by a respiratory therapist.
How the Settings are Determined
Most models of this machine come with three different types of BIPAP settings. The pressure delivered during inhalation will make it easier to breathe, while the exhaling pressure makes it easy to exhale. The BIPAP settings are preset by the respiratory therapist, based on the prescription written by your physician or a sleep specialist.
The three modes of operation include:
• Spontaneous: The spontaneous setting will switch between exhale and inhale air pressures automatically, based on the machine sensing the switch in breathing.
• Timed: The timed setting will involve switching between the exhale and inhale pressure based on a programmed rate, in order to ensure the correct prescribed breaths per minute rate is being maintained.
• Spontaneous and timed: The spontaneous and timed setting will switch as it senses a change in your breathing. The timed function is in place as a failsafe, in order to ensure that you’re breathing correctly and not interrupted by a severe apnea episode.
Is A BIPAP Machine Right for Me?
Generally, the BIPAP machines are used by patients who are unable to tolerate the same constant pressure of air that’s delivered by a CPAP device. This same pressure of air can make it difficult to exhale against, causing the user to frequently wake up throughout the night. As you can imagine, this type of issue can make apnea treatment ineffective and in some cases, it can cause difficulty sleeping and insomnia.
Who Can Qualify for BIPAP Machine Use?
A physician will usually prescribe a CPAP machine initially because it’s covered by health insurance. BIPAP machines usually aren’t, however, you can choose to rent a BIPAP device from a local medical supply store for a small fee each month. While it’s rare, some apnea sufferers will switch from a BIPAP to a CPAP machine, because the BIPAP devices can be pretty noisy.
Sleep Apnea Mask Styles
There are currently three main types of BIPAP masks used for apnea treatment:
Nasal masks: This style of mask covers the user’s nose from their upper lip area to the bridge of the nose. It works by delivering an indirect flow of air via the nasal mask. This style of mask is a great choice for people who are prescribed higher pressure settings. It’s also a better choice for users who move around a lot in their sleep or those who prefer a more natural airflow. Yet, this style of BIPAP mask isn’t without its drawbacks. They aren’t the best choice for mouth breathers or people with a history of allergies.
Nasal pillows: Another popular option, nasal pillows are lightweight and compact, making them a better choice for users who are tired of their large, bulky, traditional sleep apnea masks. This type of mask is ideal for users who are prescribed low to moderate airflow settings and people who toss and turn in their sleep. However, for some people, the use of nasal pillows can cause nasal dryness.
Full face: These are the traditional, bulky sleep apnea masks that most people are familiar with. Unlike the other two options, this mask will cover both the user’s nose and mouth and tend to cover a large portion of the user’s face. While bulky and somewhat uncomfortable, the full face mask is a great solution for users who breathe through their mouth or those with higher airflow settings.
How to Choose the Right Type of Apnea Mask
All apnea masks will work well with any type of PAP treatment device. Choosing the right type of mask can be the most important aspect of your apnea therapy. If the mask is uncomfortable, is too big or the wrong style, it can affect the quality of your treatment. When choosing a mask, make sure that you understand your options and try on a number of different BIPAP mask styles before making a final decision.