To get an air pressure machine, you first need to be diagnosed with sleep apnea. This process will probably require an overnight study in a sleep clinic; a home sleep test may be another option.
- The type of deviceCPAP, BiPAP, or APAP, for example.
- It can be generic, rather than a name brand or specific model, with some exceptions. "Most CPAP machines are interchangeable and it may take some time to find the best one," says Teofilo L. Lee-Chiong Jr., MD, medical director of the Sleep Center at National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver. "If you're not limited to one machine, you can use the prescription for years to try newer models."
- The correct pressure level. These levels are set before you receive the machine and should only be adjusted by a doctor or technician, never by the patient.
Many centers are equipped to provide you with a CPAP machine immediately after your sleep study, or they can refer you to a local durable medical equipment (DME) supplier that sells or rents them. They'll also fit you for a mask and show you how the whole system works together.
Once your doctor finds the right air pressure level for your CPAP, the next step is finding a breathing device that fits well and is comfortable enough to wear through the night. There are four main types of CPAP masks, all secured by straps around the forehead and/or chin, with flexible foam or gel cushioning:
Nasal masks, which form a seal directly around the nose
Full-face masks, which cover the nose and mouth
Oral masks, which are attached between the lips and gums
Bells and whistles
Depending on your lifestyle and personal preferences, you may find spending a little extra money on special features such as battery backup to be worthwhile.
Sometimes even the best CPAP machine and mask still won't help, if you're too sensitive to the level of air blowing through the hose. In these cases you may need to try a more sophisticated machine, such as a BiPAP or an APAP.