APAP Basics

APAP Basics

Automatic Positive Airway Pressure(APAP) Basics

An APAP is an automatic positive airway pressure machine. Like CPAP machines, APAP machines work by taking in air through a filter (often with heating and humidification), and then using a motor to push the air through a tube that is connected to a face mask. APAP machines create an air splint by cushioning the airway and propping it open, while keeping the soft palate, uvula, and tongue from obstructing or collapsing the airway.


While a CPAP has one continuous setting, an APAP is able to respond to changing pressure needs by constantly measuring how much resistance is present in your breathing. The technology in an APAP machine allows it to remain on a low setting until a change in breathing is detected and more airflow is needed.


APAP machines are often prescribed to people who do not get the desired results from a CPAP machine, or to those who have specific issues with the CPAP’s unchanging pressure level. They may be prescribed before CPAP machines in specific instances, such as sleep apnea that is comorbid with other sleep disorders, or sleep apnea that only occurs when the body shifts into a specific position. APAPs may work better for those who are prone to allergies, colds, or other temporary airway blockages, as they can adjust pressure as needed and then return to a lower setting when the flare-up has passed.



Like CPAP machines, they may cause skin irritation, especially if the mask is not properly fitted. They are not recommended for people with CSA, chronic heart failure, COPD, or obesity hypoventilation syndrome, nor are they recommended for use in people who have sleep apnea related to opioid use.

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