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BiPAP: What You Need To Know

CPAP MachineIf you have sleep apnea or another condition that makes it difficult for you to breathe correctly at night, your doctor might recommend either BiPAP or CPAP machines. Each of these machines helps you breathe better while you sleep. But what is the difference between BiPAP and CPAP, and can you use these machines with your oxygen equipment? Let’s look at how these two machines work and explore how oxygen therapy fits in. 

What Is BiPAP?

Even if you have heard of BiPAP machines, you might not know exactly what they are or why they are necessary. BiPAP stands for Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure, and this machine is used to help keep your airway from collapsing while you sleep. If you have sleep apnea, the BiPAP machine provides non-invasive airway pressure so that you can breathe more easily while you sleep.[1][2]  

A BiPAP machine provides two pressure settings. There is one higher pressure setting during your inhalation, and a lower pressure setting during your inhale. This gives you the benefit of the higher pressure on the inhale, which is what keeps your airway from collapsing, while the lower pressure is easier to exhale against.[1][2]   

What Is the Difference Between BiPAP and CPAP?

BiPAP and CPAP machines work similarly. Both provide positive airway pressure to keep your airways open while you sleep. However, each machine works slightly differently and may work better for a particular purpose. 

BiPAP is often used for patients with central sleep apnea, complex sleep apnea or COPD. CPAP is generally used for patients with obstructive sleep apnea.[3] CPAP provides a constant singular pressure, regardless of inhalation or exhalation, while BiPAP offers two pressure settings. Because the BiPAP machine differentiates the pressure provided based on whether you are inhaling or exhaling, it may be tolerated more easily. A CPAP machine provides consistent pressure, which means you will be trying to exhale against a higher pressure. This is uncomfortable for some people, so for them, the BiPAP may work better, but still provide the desired result of better, unobstructed breathing.1

In addition, BiPAP machines can be set to ensure that the user breathes a specified number of times per minute.1 Accordingly, BiPAP may be a better choice for people who have muscle problems or nerve problems. While CPAP is generally used for people with severe breathing problems while they sleep, BiPAP is used for people who need additional respiratory assistance.[3] Some CPAP patients struggle with the sensation of the higher pressure during exhalation. Since a BiPAP machine provides lower pressure during exhalation, it can reduce the work of breathing for patients, allowing them to acclimate to the machine and sleep more restfully.

How Do You Know Whether You Need BiPAP or CPAP? 

Most often, your doctor will make a recommendation about whether you need a BiPAP machine or a CPAP machine. You need a prescription to purchase either of these machines, so your prescription should indicate which one you should use. Generally speaking, it is important to follow your doctor’s recommendation as the machine they prescribe may provide a specific benefit that you need. 

That said, there may be situations in which you could use either machine. If that is the case, some patients might choose the BiPAP machine because they find it more comfortable to use with the differentiated pressures. Alternatively, some patients may prefer to use a CPAP machine because they are often less expensive than a BiPAP machine. 

Talk to your doctor about whether your condition requires that you use one of the specific types of machines, or whether both a BiPAP and a CPAP machine might work for you.[4] 

What Kind of Oxygen Concentrator Works With BiPAP?

Your doctor may determine that you need to use both oxygen therapy and a BiPAP machine at night. This can occur with COPD or overlap syndrome, wherein a patient has both obstructive sleep apnea and COPD. If so, you will need to use the correct type of oxygen equipment. You can use both a BiPAP or a CPAP machine in tandem with a continuous flow oxygen concentrator. Unfortunately, pulse dose oxygen concentrators do not work with BiPAP or CPAP machines. Once the two are connected, the pulse dose oxygen concentrator is no longer able to detect inspiration, so it will not work correctly.[5] 

If you need to connect your BiPAP machine to an oxygen concentrator, our Inogen At Home is an excellent choice. This continuous flow oxygen concentrator can provide a continuous flow of oxygen, 24/7, so that you can get the oxygen you need any time of day. To use BiPAP and oxygen therapy together, call Inogen today to find out how the Inogen At Home can improve your breathing. 

Oxygen. Anytime. Anywhere. 


[1] Asp, Kevin. “BiPAP™ (Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure) or CPAP Therapy?” American Association of Sleep Technologists, American Association of Sleep Technologists, 1 July 2015, www.aastweb.org/blog/bipap-biphasic-positive-airway-pressure-vs.-cpap-therapy. 

[2] Peters, Brandon. “Learn the Difference Between CPAP versus BiPAP to Treat Sleep Apnea.” Verywell Health, About, Inc., 20 May 2020, www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-the-difference-between-cpap-and-bipap-3015316. 

[3] “CPAP and BiPAP: Which One Is Best For You?” American Sleep Association, American Sleep Association, 31 Mar. 2021, www.sleepassociation.org/sleep-apnea/cpap-vs-bipap/. 

[4] “CPAP vs BiPAP.” Sleep Foundation, OneCare Media, LLC., 22 Jan. 2021, www.sleepfoundation.org/cpap/cpap-vs-bipap. 

[5] Meneses, P. Lazo, et al. “Pulsed Portable Oxygen Concentrators Do Not Detect Inspiration When Connected to Bilevel Ventilators or CPAP.” Sleep Medicine, Elsevier, 3 Jan. 2014, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1389945713017073. 

Additional Sources:

Brannon, Daniela. “Oxygen Concentrator vs CPAP: How Are They Different?” CPAP.com Blog, CPAP.com Blog, 8 Jan. 2021, www.cpap.com/blog/cpap-machines-different-oxygen-concentrators/. 

“The Difference Between Pulse Flow and Continuous Flow Oxygen.” Traveloxygen.com, Liberty Medical, 31 Mar. 2021, traveloxygen.com/technical-blog/difference-between-pulse-and-continuous-flow-oxygen/. 

Repasky, David. “The Complete Guide to Using CPAP with Oxygen.” CPAP.com Blog, CPAP.com Blog, 22 Nov. 2019, www.cpap.com/blog/complete-guide-using-cpap-oxygen/. 


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