Best CPAP/ BiPAP/ VPAP Machine Review- All you need to know
Let me take a wild guess. You are reading this review article because you haven’t got a satisfactory answer to the question – ‘Which is the best sleep apnea machine’ or in other words ‘best CPAP/ BiPAP/ VPAP machine for you?’ on other blogs or websites you have visited so far and you are in urgent need of buying one. If that is so, then I must say you are in the right place. I will definitely give you the answer but before revealing the best CPAP machines that I bought, I would like to share my story with you. If you or any of your loved ones is suffering from obstructive sleep apnea and you are considering to buy the best machine, I am sure my story will help you in many ways.
Okay! Let’s jump right in.
It has been since almost a decade that I have been using CPAP machine to treat my obstructive sleep apnea. In recent times, I had to go through another research to find the best CPAP Machine for my mother. In this article, I’ll walk you through the whole process and I’ll try to keep it as simple (and jargon-free) as possible. So that you understand every bit of it. I hope it will help you to find out the best machines in 2017 and to decide which one is the perfect fit for you. In next section, I will discuss the one I finally bought for my mom and why.
Philips DreamStation BiPAP Pro is an elegant and modern looking Intelligent Positive Airway Pressure machine that provides advanced bi-level sleep therapy. As with the nature of BiPAP/ VPAP machines, it delivers a higher pressure on inhalation, and a considerably lower pressure on exhalation to make the breathing more natural and smooth. It offers an expanded range of pressure from 4 to 25 cmH2O.
- Very easy to control by a convenient dial
- Intuitive and full-color Interface
- Sleek and modern design
- Very easy- Water Chamber and Filter detachment process (except one issue- Please check the Cons section)
- Bi-Flex Pressure Relief for extra comfort
- Travel friendly
- Takes notable horizontal space with humidifier attached
- I personally found it difficult to operate the water chamber release latch with one hand.
- Slightly expensive
FEATURES AND BENEFITS
FAA approved DreamStation’s compact shape and non-medical design gives it a premium look and you would not hesitate to put on your bedside table. With its travel-friendly size (we will discuss this further in the next section) and stylish shape, it completely changes the concept of the so-called bulky and ugly looking traditional sleep therapy machines that we have seen for so many years.
As mentioned previously, DreamStation BiPAP Pro is almost a perfectly sized BiPAP machine for home. The reason I said ‘almost’ is because with the humidifier attached, it takes a significant amount of horizontal space (11.69″ L x 7.59″ W) on your bedside table. People (like my mom) who keep a multitude of things on their bedside table may find it a bit large to accommodate.
Anyway, let’s get back to the travel issue.
Without the humidifier, DreamStation BiPAP Pro weighs only 3 lbs and effortlessly fits in any standard size travel bag. The carry case that was supplied with it could be a hygiene choice while traveling.
Intuitive Interface with full-color display:
Phillips designed the DreamStation’s graphic user interface using the valuable insights of real-life sleep apnea patients and doctors in an effort to provide an optimum customer experience. This is the secret of DreamStation BiPAP Pro’s user-friendly and highly intelligent interface.
Its ambient light sensor automatically adjusts the front-facing LCD display’s brightness by sensing the available light condition of the room. Simple yet colorful menus and icons make it very easy to operate the machine by a single large and convenient dial.
The display and the dial are brilliantly placed at a perfect angle so that you can operate the machine in both a sitting or lying condition.
My mom was truly impressed with this effortless control facility!
Bi-Flex Pressure Relief for extra comfort:
The DreamStation BiPAP Pro has Bi-Flex technology that helps to relieve the air pressure in three major breathing cycle points. These cycle points are transitions between inhalation to exhalation, exhalation to inhalation, and during the period of exhalation to enhance smooth and natural breathing experience. This technology allows you to select up to 1.5 cm H2O Bi-Flex level to gain optimum comfort.
‘SmartRamp’ feature to make the therapy more effective
Many of you must be wondering what does a Ramp have to do with a best BiPAP machine and what value will it add even if it’s Smart?
Let me make it easy for you.
Similar to its dictionary meaning, ‘Ramp’ is a feature that allows CPAP or BiPAP to gradually raise the air pressure at the onset of your sleep.
But why do we need this feature?
You don’t fall asleep within a second. Right?
It is more like an incremental process. So, the air pressure that we require while we are in deep sleep may not be pleasant at the initial stage of our sleep, and that is why Ramp technology has some practical benefits on initiating the sleeping process.
Nowadays, a lot of sleep therapy devices have this feature. But DreamStation BiPAP Pro does it in a smart way. During the Ramp period, this intelligent machine continuously monitors your breathing pattern to deliver minimum required pressure for you until it notices an obstructive respiratory event. On detecting any similar event, it automatically increases the pressure so that you don’t wake up before even falling asleep properly.
The humidifier section is an optional body part of DreamStation BiPAP Pro that perfectly matches with its sleek design. It is securely attached to the main unit from the back and together looks like a single integrated elegant machine. After attachment, it can be setup and adjusted from the front LCD display.
Like the Ramp feature discussed in the previous section, most of the modern CPAP or BiPAP machines also come with a ‘Standard’ heated humidifier. All you need do is pre-select the temperature and it will continue the heating on that level throughout the night.
As you can predict, Phillips DreamStation BiPAP Pro also takes this feature to the next level. Along with the ‘Fixed’ mode, it also offers ‘Adaptive’ mode of humidification. Fixed humidifier mode applies constant heat to the humidifier heater plate regardless of the condition of the room. On the other hand, the ‘Adaptive’ humidification mode automatically adjusts the humidifier heater plate temperature to maintain a constant level of relative humidity to your mask.
This robust model is designed to reduce condensation from forming in the tube that also increases the time that your humidifier water will last.
Heated tubing is the perfect companion for the heated humidifier. It allows the heated air coming from the humidifier to travel through the tube without getting condensed due to the change of temperature. It also helps to conserve the warmth of the air produced by the humidifier and you get a perfectly moisturized air deliver to your mask.
Heated tubing is great if you are having problems with water condensing in your mask and you are experiencing dry nose, mouth, or throat.
Bluetooth Connectivity and Mobile App:
If you are a tech-savvy person, you will love these features. The built-in Bluetooth system allows the DreamStation BiPAP Pro to directly pair with your mobile and communicate with a free app called ‘DreamMapper’. It is available for both iOS and Android platforms. Philips made ‘DreamMapper’ accessible through web browsers as well, (although I have never tried this feature).
Sounds fascinating, right! but what is the use of it?
The main purpose of this app is to provide you with personalized sleep tracking data that helps you and/or your doctor to monitor your Sleep Apnea condition. After each sleep session, the LCD display shows you the progress report that includes your overall sleep time in past three sessions. My mom loved this feature as she is very particular about a minimum of seven hours quality sleep.
DreamStation BiPAP Pro comes with SD card data storage facility that saves your sleep sessions data. The ‘DreamMapper’ app fetches the data through Bluetooth and provides feedback to you regarding your sleep therapy, mask fit (only available for selected Philips Respironics masks) and AHI (apnea-hypopnea index).
Other Value-adding Features:
The app offers a number of other value-added features including educational videos and guides. You can try the goal setting and accomplishment feature if you need a motivational boost. It also allows you to set reminders for humidifier cleaning or filter replacement. Honestly, you may not find these value-added features very helpful. At least I did not.
In addition to all these features, DreamStation BiPAP also offers ‘Mask Fit Check’ tool to assist you with mask fitting.
EZ-Start adaptive therapy technology to make the adjustment phase easy for you. If you are a new sleep therapy user, you will find this feature very useful.
Auto On/Off feature makes it super easy to automatically start and stop therapy when you put on or take off the mask. The best use of it is when you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
PLEASE CLICK TO GET DreamStation BiPAP User Manual
BEST SLEEP APNEA MACHINE BUYING GUIDE
As a long time Positive Airway Pressure machine user, I had my preferences on features that I found useful for me throughout the time. In this section, I will share all the must-have features that I kept in mind while I was doing my research. I will also describe why I felt these features are important to you as well.
You might have similar or slightly different preferences. I will try to provide as much information as possible so that it covers your possible preferences as well. However, if you don’t have any preference or you don’t know what to consider, I would highly recommend you to go through the following features on ‘Things to consider before buying’ list and identify at least three points that might be important for you.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING
CPAP or BiPAP is an expensive machine. Admit it! You don’t want to buy it every now and then. A better build PAP machine will last long without troubles and constant drops in service quality.
It may not be a big issue for you if you don’t travel much or you have a separate travel CPAP. In my case, I do have a separate travel CPAP machine. However, for my mother, I prefer a reasonable size and weight of PAP machine as she regularly goes on vacation.
It was an essential point on my decision checklist. My first CPAP was a bit of a noisy one. Honestly, I didn’t even consider noise issues when I was researching for my first machine, 9 years back. But now I know how annoying it can be, especially for the person who is trying to sleep next to the apnea patient. So, I recommend you to consider this as well. Moreover, you don’t want to get another reason to wake you up while you are sleeping if you already have sleep apnea.
Water Chamber Size
Another major point to consider. You surely don’t want to be waking up in the middle of the night to pour water into your CPAP or BiPAP machine’s water chamber. On the other hand, a huge water tank attached to your CPAP or BiPAP is not a viable expectation either. Any size that can contain water for more than one night’s humidification would be a perfect choice.
Water Chamber Cleaning Process
‘CPAP Cleaning’ is something most first time PAP machine buyers don’t consider when making their purchase decision, only because they don’t know how important it is in the day to day life.
As an experienced user, I preferred a simple and open water chamber. It allows easy access to all its edges while you are cleaning it.
Filter Cleaning and Changing
Like ‘Water chamber cleaning’, first-time buyers also don’t realize the benefit of this feature. It doesn’t matter where you live, you have to clean or change the filter at regular intervals to keep your breathing fresh and dust free. If you are allergic to dust like me then you might have to clean a bit more often than usual.
First-time User Comfort Level
Regardless of which machine you choose, you have to go through a few issues to get accustomed to the new machine and especially the masks, even if you are a previous Positive Airway Pressure machine user. Having said that, the type of machine (CPAP, BiPAP, Auto CPAP/BiPAP) you are using can make a huge difference in the phase of adaptability. We will further discuss this issue towards the end of this article.
Most important point among all. At least it was to me. I don’t mind spending money on something that has real value or benefit to me. I certainly don’t want to buy a gold plated fancy CPAP Machine that has no use for me.
On above comparison table, I tried to suggest three of the best CPAP/ BiPAP machines from three different price points so that you can choose the most suitable one for yourself. It includes the one that I finally bought for my mother.
TIPS FOR FIRST TIME USERS
As I mentioned earlier in this article, you will go through a denial phase when you start using Positive Airway Pressure machine for the first time. It is natural and you are not the only one. Most people go through the same process. Through time you will become accustomed to the overall therapy; especially with air pressure level and the mask.
It took around three months for me to become completely habituated with the extra thing (mask) on my face. My mother is still struggling with it. There is no fixed adaptation time. Nobody can assure you how long it will take for you to adapt but eventually, you will get used to it.
That is for sure.
Still, there are a few small steps that I can suggest which might help you to make the adaptability procedure a bit shorter and easier. Which are-
1. Make it a regular routine:
Use positive airway pressure machine every night when you prepare for sleeping; even if you take the mask off at night unintentionally.
2. Daytime use:
If your lifestyle allows, try to take a nap with your PAP machine on, anytime during the day. This trick helped my mom to positively approach the initial discomfort. As a retired person she could afford to take a nap right after her breakfast every day. According to her, that hour long nap makes her feel way better than a full night of disturbed sleep as she feels more claustrophobic with the mask on in dark.
3. Mask type:
If you realize the discomfort is mainly occurring due to the mask, you should try a different mask. You can contact your local sleep centers for renting a mask rather than buying one. That will allow you to switch between different masks and find the best fit for you.
4. Mask fitting:
You need to adjust your mask headgear and straps according to your comfort. It should not be too tight or too loose. In extreme cases, you can consider buying a specially shaped bed pillow that easily accommodates mask and tube while you are sleeping sideways.
5. Using the ‘Ramp’ feature:
Theoretically, auto BiPAP machine is the easiest one to get along with due to its intelligent therapy adjustment capability. On top of that, using the ‘Ramp’ feature of the machine can make the adaptation process slightly easier.
6. Dry Mouth :
Another discomforting thing that you might experience with PAP machine is a dry mouth and/or throat after therapy. Make sure you are using a heated humidifier and heated tube to get maximum moistened air to your mask. It will definitely solve the dryness issue and make the acceptability process comfortable.
7. A few other points:
Practicing sleep hygiene is necessary for everybody, which includes: daily physical exercising and staying away from caffeine and alcohol couple of hours before bedtime.
Even after all these tweaks if you are still finding it difficult to cope with your PAP machine then something is wrong with the air pressure level, and you should consult with your sleep specialist or doctor.
On the other hand, you can just put the mask on without the PAP machine attached with it while you are reading the newspaper or watching TV.
MY SLEEP APNEA STORY
Until 2008, I never even knew that a fatal disease called ‘Sleep Apnea’ existed in the world! The first time I came to know about it was in a bit of dramatic way. However, even after knowing about the disease and discovering the fact that I am a severe patient of it, I was reluctant to buy and use a CPAP machine which is the best possible solution of Sleep Apnea.
You may wonder why? Here are the reasons…
1. It is expensive. Admit it!
I had the money but I was not mentally ready to invest a fortune in a machine that just produces air.
Yes! You heard it right.
Back then a CPAP machine was nothing more than that to me. With all my knowledge and logical understanding, I could not think of any reason why it should be any more expensive than a glorified ‘Aquarium Air Pump’.
I was not even interested to know CPAP’s mechanism, the health benefits of it and how it might help to improve my sleep apnea condition.
2. I believed regular exercise and a bit of weight loss would cure me automatically. It’s a no-brainer.
Honestly, it is actually true but it is not as easy as it sounds.
Indeed, exercise and weight loss help to improve the situation. However, if you are sleep deprived every single night, exercising would be the last thing that you would want to do the very next day. Trust me on that.
But unfortunately, I did not realize this back then.
So what did I do?
I did not buy a CPAP machine!
That’s fine! But wait – there’s more. The interesting part of the story is yet to come.
Instead of a CPAP machine, I bought an elliptical machine.
To me, it was like killing two birds with one stone. Getting a better physique and no more sleep apnea. Problem solved!!
Guess what happened next?
My sleep apnea was gone within a couple of weeks and I became happy, healthy, and handsome.
Though I started with exercising regularly, it became occasional within a couple of weeks. I was trying to live with some sort of fake satisfaction by telling myself, “hello!…..at least I am trying!!”.
The exercise was making my body tired and I was requiring more rest and sleep to recover and keep myself alive. Sadly, sleep apnea did not allow me to have the proper sleep that I needed now more than ever.
So waking up in the morning became a nightmare to me. I started taking more caffeine to keep me awake throughout the day. By evening I felt more tired than other days and had to fight myself to get on the elliptical machine. Just imagine that.
I was drowning deep inside this negative circular whirlpool day by day and I had no idea how to get myself out of it.
But one day magic happened.
I realized I was doing it all wrong when my best friend helped me to see the same thing from a completely different point of view.
He said “Have you ever realized that one-third of our lives is spent sleeping? We give priority to good food, nice clothes, a big house because we want to enjoy our life. But why don’t we enjoy the ‘sleep’ as well? It’s definitely a prerequisite to a healthy life and it also gives us the energy to enjoy the other precious things in life that we are working so hard to achieve”.
Let’s be honest. I never thought of it in that way before. It literally changed my way of thinking for good and I did what I should have done months before.
I did a proper research and bought the best available CPAP Machine to me (Hoffrichter Point) from the local market. I had to go through some initial time to get familiar with CPAP pressure and finding the right mask for me but gradually it became natural and now it just like a part of my body.
It has been more than 9 years now since I started using a CPAP machine. So far, I have used two CPAP Machines and a couple of masks. Recently, I started noticing that my mother is having similar symptoms of sleep apnea that I had nine years back (i.e. heavy snoring, always tired in the daytime, falling asleep while watching TV etc.). So, we immediately got her sleep test done and as predicted, we found that she has a moderate level of sleep apnea. That actually led me to initiate the best CPAP/ BiPAP/ VPAP machine finding journey once again.
ALL ABOUT SLEEP APNEA AND PAP MACHINES
In the next section, I will discuss the Sleep Apnea disease, CPAP machine, and other relevant technologies. I hope after reading this, you won’t have to search for these terms for the explanation again.
What is Sleep Apnea?
I am sure you already know what Sleep Apnea is. However, for those who are overwhelmed by all the complex definitions of it on the internet, I will try to make it easy for you.
But is that what makes sleep apnea fatal? Anybody can intentionally stop breathing for a couple of minutes. Right?
It is the number of times sleep apnea causes your breath to stop that makes it a more dangerous disease. The level of sleep apnea you have (mild, moderate, or severe) also gets determined by these numbers. Anything more than 30 pauses of breath per hour during sleep is considered as severe sleep apnea.
Does this sound like you? Take this Quiz if you want to find out more.
TYPES OF SLEEP APNEA
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA):
This is the most common type where the soft tissue of our upper respiratory section collapses and blocks the airway during sleep.
Central sleep apnea (CSA):
Here it is not the airway that gets blocked but the brain signal that informs the respiratory system muscles to breathe that gets blocked.
In either type, the deficiency of oxygen causes us to unintentionally wake up at regular intervals. These constant interruptions directly affect the quality of our sleep and make us feel dizzy and sleepy during the daytime.
Ohh! I forgot to mention that there is another type of sleep apnea called ‘Complex Sleep Apnea’ that actually combines both of the above-mentioned types. I am not going into much detail on that type as in this article we are only focusing on Obstructive sleep apnea.
If that is what you are here for then keep on reading. We are getting to the solution part now.
1 out of 5
Adults in the US have at least mild obstructive sleep apnea*
WHAT IS A CPAP/ BiPAP/ VPAP MACHINE?
CPAP or ‘Continuous Positive Airway Pressure’ is a form of nonsurgical ‘obstructive sleep apnea’ treatment where a medically approved device generates continuous air to increase pressure in our throat so that our airway doesn’t collapse while we breathe when sleeping.
Types of PAP (Positive Airway Pressure) Machines:
CPAP or Continues PAP is not the only Positive Airway Pressure machine. There is a range of machines available in the market with various therapy solutions. It might sound a bit confusing initially but it will all make sense gradually. The following table will help you to align your therapeutic needs and preferences with the possible options
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) provides a fixed level of pressure that prevents our upper airway from collapsing during sleep at night.
People who already gone through sleep test and know their required air pressure level.
BiPAP or bi-level positive airway pressure machine can automatically sense the inhalation and exhalation process of our breathing. It is also known as VPAP (Variable Positive Airway Pressure) machine. It provides a higher pressure on inhalation and a lower pressure on exhalation so that breathing feels more natural easy while sleeping.
It’s the best choice for those who are using Positive Airway Pressure machine for the first time.
Some people feel suffocated with CPAP as it only provides single pressure throughout the night.
Auto CPAP and Auto BiPAP:
These are the most intelligent types of Positive Airway Pressure machines that science can offer us today. Every night we go through different stages of sleep and the severity of obstructive sleep apnea actually varies from day to day. We certainly don’t need the same airflow pressure every night or every hour of a single night.
Auto CPAP or BiPAP automatically adjusts the airflow level based on our airway size to provide the correct pressure on a particular moment to satisfy our needs.
Those who do not know what air pressure they should use.
Those who don’t want to undergo sleep tests again and again to find any changes of required air pressure level.
LAST WORDS FOR
As promised, I tried to describe my complete journey of Sleep Apnea and the best sleep apnea machine as its cure. I avoided the disease at the beginning by saying it is just ‘snoring’ and it would be easily treated if I reduced a bit of weight. But snoring was just the tip of the iceberg. I was seriously damaging my health (mental and physical both) by not taking it seriously at the early stage.
Don’t let this be you.
If you need to buy the Best CPAP/ BiPAP/ VPAP machine for you or your loved one, don’t procrastinate by thinking too much. The reason I am telling you this is- it is not a luxury lifestyle product that you can plan to buy next Christmas. It is something for your health, for your life. What could be more important than your healthy life?
If you came to this point of this long article, it means you found the article interesting and useful. I will be glad if my story and suggestions have succeeded in helping even in the slightest way.
Now it’s your turn to take action.
*Young T, et al. Epidemiology of obstructive sleep apnea: a population health perspective. AJRCCM 2002;165:1217-1239.