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Shopping for a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine can be a daunting undertaking, especially for someone with a new sleep apnea diagnosis.
If you’re at the point where you’ve researched the benefits of CPAP therapy and decided it’s worth it to take the leap and get a prescription, you’re likely already finding comfort knowing you’re on your way to better sleep.
Choosing the right CPAP machine is an important and complex decision whether you’re buying for the first time or shopping for a replacement. You want to find a machine that works best for your needs, and things like cost, size, noise, portability, and features vary widely between manufacturers.
To ease the process, we’ve put together this guide that covers everything you need to know about shopping for a CPAP machine.
Our top pick – Best CPAP Machine of 2023
The ResMed AirSense 11 AutoSet checks all of the important boxes when it comes to comfortable CPAP therapy. Highlights include automatic pressure adjustments based on your breathing, a heated humidifier, up to an hour of ramp-up time. Another important feature is MyAir, a digital assistant that helps first-time users navigate the device.
ResMed AirSense 11 AutoSet CPAP Machine
- Automatic pressure adjustments may increase therapy comfort
- Heated humidifier limits dryness and irritation
- Compatible with the myAir mobile app
- Slightly more expensive than the average APAP machine
- Advanced features are appealing but may not be necessary for all users
Best Travel CPAP Machine
- Compact and exceptionally lightweight
- Equipped with a waterless humidifier for more convenient use when on the go
- Approved for use during flights
- Only compatible with certain ResMed masks unless you purchase a separate adapter
- Sound level of 29 decibels is slightly higher than other models
Luna G3 Auto-CPAP Machine
- Built-in humidifier with preheat setting may help with CPAP side effects like dry mouth and nasal irritation
- Wireless transmission makes it easy to send therapy data to your physician
- Lightweight design and whisper-quiet operation
- Frequent pressure changes may cause some sleepers to wake up
- Bulkier design reduces suitability for travel
ResMed AirSense 10 AutoSet Card-to-Cloud CPAP Machine
- Adjusts pressure automatically throughout the night
- Lower price-point than the AirSense 11
- FAA-approved for in-flight use
- No cellular connectivity to share therapy data with your doctor
- Some sleepers may awaken when pressure levels change during the night
What Types of CPAP Machines Are Available?
While CPAP is sometimes used as a catchall term for all types of positive airway pressure (PAP) machines, there are actually several different types of PAP devices that may be prescribed to treat sleep apnea and other sleep-related breathing conditions.
|Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)||A CPAP machine provides a constant stream of pressurized air, and the amount of air pressure stays the same when inhaling and exhaling. CPAP devices are frequently recommended as the initial treatment if you are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) without other breathing problems.|
|Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP)||A BiPAP machine can be set up to have two distinct air pressure levels, one for when you breathe in and another for when you exhale. Some BiPAP devices have more advanced modes that can provide breathing assistance if respiration gets too slow.|
A BiPAP machine is most often prescribed if you have had difficulties using a CPAP machine or if you have OSA along with other breathing conditions like central sleep apnea (CSA).
|Automatic Positive Airway Pressure (APAP)||An APAP machine has built-in sensors that track your breathing, allowing the device’s algorithms to automatically adjust air pressure levels within a prescribed range to the lowest level needed to keep the airway open during sleep.|
APAP machines can be prescribed as an initial treatment for OSA and may also be recommended if you have had difficulty tolerating the fixed pressure of a CPAP device.
|Travel||Designed for portability, a travel PAP machine is generally light and compact. Travel devices may have both CPAP and APAP modes. These machines are easier to fit in a suitcase or use on an airplane and are often kept as a second therapy device by people who are frequently away from home.|
What CPAP Accessories Should You Have?
To use a CPAP machine, you’ll need several CPAP accessories in addition to the device itself. Some accessories are absolutely necessary, while others are optional and are meant to increase comfort or convenience.
Ask your doctor or your CPAP equipment provider which accessories will be included with your device. In most cases, the machine will come with standard tubing but a CPAP mask must be purchased separately. Optional accessories usually have to be bought separately as well.
Essential CPAP Accessories
|CPAP Mask||A CPAP mask delivers pressurized air to your nose or your nose and mouth. This is an essential accessory, and it must be compatible with your CPAP device. You may need to try more than one mask to find the best fit.|
|Mask Cushions||Nasal masks and full-face masks come with cushions — typically made from silicone but sometimes gel or memory foam — that seal against your face. Nasal pillow masks feature soft nasal inserts that seal just inside your nostrils. Most masks sold online come with cushions, though they can also be purchased separately.|
|Headgear||Headgear holds your mask in the proper place while you sleep. Like cushions, masks generally come with headgear that can also be bought separately when it needs to be replaced.|
|Filters||Filters clean the air that flows through your CPAP device. Your machine should come with at least one filter for immediate use. Reusable filters should be cleaned regularly and replaced every six months, while disposable filters should be replaced about once a month. Both types of filters should be replaced immediately if they show visible signs of deterioration.|
|Tubing||Tubing connects the CPAP machine to the mask. For a CPAP machine to work, you must have tubing that is compatible with both the device and the mask. Unheated tubing measuring around 6 feet long is normally provided with your CPAP machine, but it needs to be replaced periodically. If you want a longer hose or heated tubing, you may have to make a separate purchase.|
Optional CPAP Accessories
|Battery||In most cases, a battery is not necessary because CPAP machines can be plugged into an outlet. However, some devices are compatible with a rechargeable battery that can be useful when traveling or camping. You will likely have to pay for an external battery yourself.|
|CPAP Pillow||CPAP pillows are specially designed to accommodate your head and neck when wearing a CPAP mask. These are not essential accessories, but they may make therapy more comfortable.|
|Hose Holder||Hose holders are optional accessories that can make your sleep setup more comfortable by holding CPAP tubing in a specific position.|
|Travel Case||In many cases, your CPAP machine will come in a zippered case that has space for the device and several key accessories.|
What to Consider in a CPAP Machine
There are a number of considerations to take into account when shopping for a CPAP machine, including optional comfort features like humidification and ramp settings. A CPAP machine is a medical device, and your doctor’s advice can help assure that you purchase a model that is medically appropriate for your situation.
For fixed-pressure CPAP machines, a single pressure setting is determined during a titration study at a sleep lab. The average pressure setting for people diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea is around 10 centimeters of water pressure (cm H2O).
Alternatively, your doctor may provide a prescription for an APAP machine with a prescribed pressure range. Since APAP devices have the ability to auto-titrate, the machine will determine the appropriate pressure level based on your breathing patterns while you sleep. Most CPAP and APAP machines have a pressure range of 4 to 20 cm H2O.
Warming and humidifying the airflow from a PAP machine can reduce dryness and irritation in your mouth and nasal passages. Optional heated tubing can minimize condensation when using heated humidification.
Most modern PAP machines include a heated humidifier, but we recommend double-checking a model’s product details to know if a humidifier is built into the device and whether it is compatible with heated tubing.
The average sound level of a CPAP machine is a relatively quiet 30 decibels, which is roughly equivalent to a soft whisper. Some models produce only about 25 decibels of noise, which may be appealing if you are easily awoken.
PAP devices record data about your usage and breathing every night. You often will need to share this information with your doctor, and different models offer differing ways to store and transmit nightly data. Some machines store therapy data on a removable SD card, while others are equipped with cellular modems for wireless transmission to a cloud-based platform.
Many PAP devices also offer a pressure ramp, which slowly increases the air pressure to help ease you into sleep. We suggest that you look closely at the product description to see exactly what pressure modification features are possible with the machine you are considering.
Recalls and Warranties
Before making a purchase, look for details about product recalls or warranties. Recalls are when a device is taken off the market because of a potential safety issue. Warranties provide a remedy if your device has defects in its materials or workmanship. Typical CPAP machine warranties expire after two years, but some last for up to five years.
Where Can You Buy a CPAP Machine?
CPAP machines can be purchased from authorized retailers in physical stores and online. Some sleep clinics sell CPAP machines as well. You will often find the best prices and largest selection through an online CPAP retailer.
Pricing, Prescriptions, and Insurance Coverage
The cost of PAP machines varies widely, with models running anywhere from $500 to $3,000 depending on the brand, type of machine, and features. APAP machines are generally more expensive than fixed-pressure CPAP models, while BiPAP machines command the highest price-points of the three due to their more advanced features.
A prescription is required to buy any form of PAP machine. In many cases, health insurance providers, including Medicare and Medicaid, will cover a portion of the device cost. Coverage may require providing compliance data showing that you are regularly using and benefitting from PAP therapy. Many online CPAP retailers do not accept insurance, so check with your insurance provider to see if they will provide reimbursement.
In-Depth CPAP Guides
If you’ve been prescribed a BiPAP machine or are seeking a travel CPAP machine to supplement your everyday device, check out our expert picks for these categories. We’ve also included links to our reviews of several popular machines if you’d like to explore these models in more detail.
Data-Driven Results You Can Trust
Our expert team is dedicated to bringing you reliable and actionable product recommendations. We draw on years of experience in the field of sleep health, and we personally research and evaluate every product discussed on our site.
Our picks for the best CPAP machines were developed after carefully analyzing the range of devices on the market and how their features line up with the needs of typical CPAP users.
Frequently Asked Questions
A CPAP machine works to promote steady and uninterrupted breathing by generating a stream of pressurized air that is sent through a hose and a mask into the upper airway. For people with sleep apnea, the flow of air is intended to prevent pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep.
CPAP machines usually last around three to five years. The exact lifespan depends on the quality of the machine’s construction, how often it’s used, and how well it is maintained.
Keeping a CPAP machine clean, following manufacturer directions, and only using compatible accessories can prevent premature damage to a CPAP machine.
A prescription from a licensed health care provider is required to get a CPAP machine. Any CPAP equipment company will need a copy of your prescription before they can sell you a device.
You can buy a CPAP machine online, but you will need a prescription from a doctor before your order is fulfilled. When buying online, make sure to look carefully at details about shipping, returns, and customer support.
Being proactive about cleaning your CPAP machine can keep it operating optimally while also providing protection against germs. We suggest a few basic tips for cleaning:
– Always follow the instructions from the manufacturer about approved cleaning methods and cleaning frequency.
– Lightly clean your mask daily and do a deeper clean of your mask and other accessories every week.
– If you use a CPAP humidifier, empty the water chamber daily and refill it with distilled water only. Clean the tank once a week.
– For most cleaning, use warm water and a mild liquid soap.
– Avoid bleach, harsh or abrasive chemicals, and cleaners that use ultraviolet light or ozone gas.
– Regularly check the tubing, humidifier tank, and filter for dirt buildup and clean or replace them as necessary.
Some of the most common CPAP side effects are dryness in the nose or mouth, discomfort from the airflow or mask, and skin irritation. While you may have some initial side effects when starting CPAP therapy, they may be eliminated or significantly reduced by working with your doctor.
Potential alternatives to using a CPAP machine include using an APAP or BiPAP device, wearing a custom-fitted oral appliance during sleep, or having surgery for sleep apnea.
These treatments are intended to eliminate breathing disruptions during sleep, but they only work in certain circumstances. Only a doctor can determine whether any of these alternative sleep apnea treatments may be a viable option for you.