If you are wondering what the difference between an APAP and CPAP machine is, you or someone close to you has likely been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a potentially serious disorder that causes the body to repeatedly stop breathing during sleep. There are three types:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): The muscles in the throat relax during sleep, in general or in a specific sleeping position, blocking the airway.
  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): The brain doesn’t send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing during sleep.
  • Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome: Sleepers experience a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

Apneas, or pauses in breathing during sleep, often cause microarousals from sleep. Frequent waking from sleep, even if only for a small amount of time, can prevent a person from getting the healthy, restorative sleep that they need.


Sleep apnea affects approximately 2% to 9% of adults. Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are actively seeking treatment, while others may have undiagnosed or untreated sleep apnea.


If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause short-term symptoms such as intrusive snoring, morning headaches, sore throats, daytime fatigue, irritability, and disordered sleep patterns. It can also lead to long-term negative health outcomes such as an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and liver disease, as well as potential surgery complications.


Once a doctor establishes that you are suffering from sleep apnea, they may initially suggest lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, or discontinuing the use of alcohol or certain sleep medications. They may also treat underlying conditions like allergies. In addition to these potential changes, a doctor will usually prescribe the use of a device that can help open the airway during sleep. In some cases, other interventions, such as surgery, are necessary.


In the majority of sleep apnea cases, treatment usually includes one of two devices: a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, or an automatic positive airway pressure (APAP) machine. There are similarities between CPAP and APAP machines, as both devices are designed to promote airflow to help relieve symptoms of sleep apnea. A CPAP machine is the standard treatment option in most cases, but some sleepers may respond better to an APAP machine.

What Is the Difference Between CPAP and APAP?

The main difference between a CPAP and an APAP machine is that an APAP machine automatically adjusts its settings as you sleep. This allows it to meet changing pressure needs throughout the night.


A CPAP machine is adjusted to one setting, usually during a PAP titration study at home or in a sleep study center, or by trial and error while using the machine. If the pressure is too high and causes exhalation discomfort, the CPAP can be manually adjusted to a new setting, but it will not adjust automatically.


Understanding the differences between these two machines can help sleep apnea sufferers work with a medical professional to find the right fit.

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