How to Pick the Right CPAP Machine for Sleep Apnea


If your loved one has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, and your doctor has prescribed use of a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine, it can be difficult to decide which one will best suit your needs. A CPAP is not always covered by insurance, and the elder will need it for a long time, so think of the purchase as an investment. Do your research and compare the available models before you purchase a CPAP machine. Here are a few factors to consider.


Because pressurized air requires a closed seal for it to be effective, CPAP machine users are required to wear specialized masks when sleeping. However, an uncomfortable mask or chin strip is usually what causes people to stop wearning their CPAP.It is absolutely vital that the CPAP chin strap and mask fit properly. If the mask and chin strap don't fit properly, it can cause:

  • Skin irritation, chafing, rashes, sores
  • Leaks from a mask that is the wrong size, causing the pressurized air to escape, reducing the effectiveness of your nasal CPAP machine.
  • Dry mouth, red, swollen eyes or conjunctivitis from a mask that it too tight, which can increase the pressure on the apnea sufferer's eyes

Look for straps that come in different sizes, to accommodate the user's head, as well as soft, stretchable straps. Straps extend around your face and over your head to hold the nasal cushion in place while the breathing tube extends up over your head to allow sleep in any position. Unfortunately, many users find the straps on their face to be uncomfortable, especially when initially trying to fall asleep.

Sleep Position

It is difficult to get used to wearing a CPAP mask every night, but there are a variety of CPAP accessory options that can make the machines easier to adjust to. For example, users can choose between a mask that covers the entire face, or one with tubes that seal inside the nostrils. There are CPAP masks that work best for people who lie on their stomachs and others for people who toss and turn. Experimenting with CPAP mask accessories, to find the one that is most comfortable for your elderly parent.


If you find yourself frequently traveling for business or pleasure, be sure to choose a model that is portable, compact, and easy to take with you. Some machines are available with an optional DC power supply for you car's cigarette lighter, or can be run with an optional integrated battery, making it the ideal choice for traveling by airplane.

Heated Humidifier

Clinical research has shown that CPAP patients tend to be more compliant with the addition of heated humidity to their CPAP program. A CPAP humidifier can prevent a dry mouth and the sinus problems caused by the stream of pressurized air. A CPAP humidifier works by using a fine mist of warm or room-temperature distilled water to keep your nasal passages moist. When choosing a CPAP machine with the heated humidifier, keep in mind how much space the machine will take up with the humidifier attached.

Adjustable Ramp and Exhalation Pressure Relief

The ramp is used to temporarily lower the air pressure initially to allow the CPAP machine user to fall asleep more easily. The pressure then gradually increases to the prescribed level. Adjustable ramp settings allow the user to set the amount of time it takes for the CPAP machine to reach the prescribed level. Some CPAP machines, include a feature the decreases the air flow pressure when you exhale. Exhalation pressure relief is usually not a necessary feature, and most CPAP machines that include it are much more expensive.

Sound Level

All newer CPAP machines are very quiet, but some are more quiet than others. Although the majority of noise you hear while using CPAP therapy is the sound of air rushing through the tube, the quietness of the motor is an important factor to consider.


Some CPAP users find it more pleasant to breath with APAP than with CPAP because the pressure automatically changes as needed to deliver the minimal pressure needed. With a CPAP, on the other hand, the pressure is set at the highest necessary to keep the airway open, even though the high pressure is needed only a fraction of the time.

The bottom line: Before purchasing a CPAP machine, be sure to look at all of the options and features available.

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Another thing to be considered is the ease of use. Although my husband has been using a CPAP for years, as his vascular dementia gets worse, he get more confused with the machine and mask. He tangles his headgear, manages to get the hose disconnected from the base and has knocked the whole thing on the floor. And remembers nothing the next morning. Not sure what we are going to do since he has central sleep apnea, which is different from obstructive.
My husband faithfully used his CPAP machine for about 5 years but after spending a month in the Dominican Republic without his machine, he had a very difficult time resuming the use of the CPAP when he returned home.

His dentist recommended a Tap 3 Mouth Guard (The Thornton Adjustable Positioner® – or TAP®-3) and he definitely breathes better at night without all the noise and cumbersomeness of the CPAP machine. The mouth guard is small enough to fit in his pocket, needs no electricity or water and helps also with the grinding of teeth in the night.

His cardiologist called him a few days ago to get the name of his dentist for another patient. We have friends, one who won't use his machine and one who is very diligent about using her machine, who have changed to the Tap 3 mouth guard because of the simplicity.

Because my husband had the CPAP machine it took about a year and a half before I could get the Insurance Company to agree to pay for the Tap 3 but they finally did.

This is another option that should be considered when evaluating what you need to do for Sleep Apnea. Not everyone can adjust to CPAP machines or there may be times when they just won't work. When traveling with a friend with a CPAP machine, she panicked when she realized that there wasn't an American outlet near the bed and the hotel didn't have an extension cord to accommodate her CPAP machine. Fortunately I did have an extension that was long enough and she now travels with her own extension cord.
Thank you for the information on the alternative use of a CPAP....the Thornton Adjustable Positioner. Where do you find it?