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The difference between CPAP and APAP relates to the pressure required to hold the upper airway open. CPAP is also known as fixed-pressure, which means a single pressure level is set by your sleep specialist based on the average or maximum pressure required to prevent your apneas and hypopneas. APAP devices, however, can automatically adjust the pressure required to keep your airway open (also known as automatic, or variable-pressure). Instead of a fixed-pressure (for example, 10cm), APAP machines are built to fluctuate within a range of pressures as they deliver air, constantly adjusting to the minimum pressure needed to keep airways open. APAP machines have a complex algorithm that detects on a breath-by-breath basis the pressure required at that moment to prevent apnea events. APAP devices deliver higher pressures during deep stages of sleep when needed, but then reduce pressure during the lighter stages of sleep making therapy reportedly more comfortable. An APAP prescription is typically a range between 4cm – 20cm of pressure.
Determining your suitability for CPAP or APAP is the responsibility of your sleep specialist.