BiPAP vs. CPAP Explained: What’s the Difference?

Did you recently take a sleep study and were diagnosed with a sleep disorder? Wonder what the difference is between a BiPAP and a CPAP machine? Which one’s right for you? Here are the pros and cons of both machines, as well as the APAP, to help you decide.

CPAP Explained

What is it?

• Continuous Positive Airway Pressure


How it works:

CPAP is the most common machine used to treat conditions like central sleep apnea (CSA), obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), complex sleep apnea, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The machines are designed to open your airway during sleep, maintaining constant airflow through this airway.


Who uses it:

CPAP is the most common treatment for OSA and is typically the first machine a patient will be prescribed. More specifically, the machine is designed for patients requiring continuous pressure throughout the night at one constant level. Its simple design makes it a cheaper, yet effective option favored by patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea requiring lower pressure levels and the constant CPAP pressure level the machine offers.

Popular CPAP Machines

BiPAP Explained

What is it?

• Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure


How it works:

BiPAP machines have two ‘levels’ or pressure – one pressure while inhaling, and a lower pressure at exhalation. Similar to CPAP machines, BiPAP therapy is also used by obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and COPD patients.

  1. IPAP - Inspiratory Positive Airway Pressure (positive pressure on inspiration)
  2. EPAP - Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure (positive pressure on expiration)


Who uses it:

Some CPAP users complain about breathing out against the single pressure setting of their machines people who need higher pressure machines in particular have this issue. A BiPAP machine is perfect for these users, as the machine provides high pressure only during inhalation and a lower pressure when exhaling. Similarly, patients with low oxygen levels, cardiopulmonary and lung disorders (such as congestive heart failure and high blood pressure), or ones who have had unsuccessful experiences with CPAP therapy often use BiPAPs as well.

Popular BiPAP Machines

What about APAP Machines?

APAP machines are similar to CPAP machines, but with a few differences. The main difference is that APAP machines have a pressure that will adjust automatically based on your overall breathing patterns and tendencies, supplying different pressures throughout the night . APAP machines also employ a CPAP mode, in addition to the auto adjusting mode. This way, patients can try both APAP and CPAP with only one device. APAP is ideal for sleep apnea patients who sleep at different positions throughout the night as the machine automatically adjusts its pressure settings based on the position you’re currently in. Generally, the automatic nature of APAP allows patients to get better sleep than CPAP, but at a more expensive cost.

When To Use CPAP vs. BiPAP

Ultimately, the decision of BiPAP vs. CPAP comes down to your needs. Patients with more severe sleep apnea tend to choose BiPAP machines to closely monitor their breaths per minute and be more comfortable as breathing against a CPAP on a higher pressure setting can be hard. Patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea tend to choose CPAP machines because breathing against a lower pressure setting isn’t a problem, and the machines cost less while providing everything they need. Both machines have the same side effects, including a dry mouth, so this is not something to worry about when deciding between the two.


Note: Most face masks, full face masks, nasal masks, and CPAP masks are compatible with both CPAP and BiPAP machines.

CPAP vs. BiPAP Machine: Summary

PressureTwo - One for inhale, one for exhaleSingle, constant pressure
ComfortGreat - two pressure settings allows patients to breathe easierSome complain about discomfort in breathing against the single pressure of the machine
Advanced FeaturesCan be set to make sure users breathe a set number of times per minuteData tracking features, making sure your current pressure is best for you
For What Type of Patient?Patients with unsuccessful CPAP therapy, high pressure levels, or other conditions (cardiopulmonary/lung disorders)Patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea, often used by first-time CPAP therapy patients
CostTypically moreTypically less

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