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.

Comfort

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.

Portability

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.

APAP or CPAP

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.

You May Also LikeSee all guides >

Veterans' Benefits

Find federal benefits available to your family.

Home Care

How to find, hire and manage home care.

Caregivers' Survival

Everything you need to care for an elderly family member.

Get the latest care advice and articles delivered to your inbox!