CPAP vs. BILEVEL vs. APAP - What is the difference?

What is the difference between APAP, BILEVEL, and CPAP?

You’re thinking that you have obstructive sleep apnea and will require a nighttime breathing machine. Now what? For those of you feeling dazed and confused on what to do next or which machine you’ve googled is right for you, that’s what we are here for! First, schedule a consultation with a sleep specialist to determine if you have sleep apnea and will benefit from assistance breathing in your sleep. From there, it’s time to start looking into the machines.  It’s important you understand the differences in devices for treating sleep apnea. We’ve got all of the information on  sleep disordered breathing machines designed to help you get a better night’s rest.


It may be most helpful to first explain what each machine is and does. The common machines for treating sleep apnea are:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines treat sleep apnea by increasing air pressure in your throat so your airway doesn’t collapse while breathing in. CPAP machines blow a constant amount of air pressure.
  • Bilevel positive airway pressure (BIPAP™) machines are also used to treat sleep apnea and function similarly to CPAP machines. BIPAP™ ,or Bi-Level devices differ in that it has multiple air pressure settings for breathing, while CPAPs only have one. Designed to optimize breathing, BIPAP™ machines blow air at a higher pressure while inhaling and while exhaling blow air at a lower pressure. Another neat feature is that Bi-level devices can be set to include a breath timing feature that measures the amount of breaths someone should take, so, if the time between breaths exceeds the time limit the machine forces its user to breathe.
  • Automatic positive airway pressure (APAP) machines are different from CPAP and BIPAP™ because they have a high and low air pressure setting that allows the machine to automatically adjust to meet its user’s breathing needs.

While each machine differs slightly, they all work towards the same goal: to keep you breathing while you are sleeping. Now that you know your options, let’s take a look at how to decide which might be best for you.

Which machine is right for me?

There’s no long winded answer to this question. It depends. “But really, which is better?” you may be asking. It really just depends. CPAPs are the most common of the sleep disordered breathing machines used to treat obstructive sleep apnea. But you may want to consider using an APAP if you would prefer a machine that will automatically adjust to your breathing needs. Maybe a BIPAP™ is better if you find the CPAP pressure to be high or uncomfortable. There are a myriad of benefits and drawbacks to each that are best discussed with a doctor or sleep specialist.

Remember, you are never in this alone! For a breath of fresh air and a better’s night rest, visit us online or call 480.830.3900 to schedule a consultation.