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Different Types of CPAP Machines

A CPAP machine is a type of positive airway pressure (PAP) machine. PAP machines are small medical devices used to help people breathe better when they have certain medical conditions, including sleep apnea

While CPAP is often the more known or referenced type of PAP device, there are also other types of PAP machines out there. All of these machines look similar but work in slightly different ways, making them suitable for different types of patients. If you have sleep apnea, your healthcare provider will review your diagnosis to help determine the type of machine you need. 

We’ll explain the different types of PAP machines, including how they work, who each one might be suitable for, and how you can obtain one.

PAP Machines 

PAP devices feature a small, motorized unit, a flexible hose, and a mask. The PAP machines draw air in from the room, filter it, and then deliver it to the user at the required pressure. The goal of these devices is to keep the airway open to facilitate better breathing and ease sleep apnea symptoms. 

Learn More: What Does CPAP Mean?

CPAP Machines

CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. With this type of machine, the user receives a steady stream of pressurized air. The level of pressure is pre-programmed by your physician. CPAPs are often recommended for those with obstructive sleep apnea1, which is when the throat relaxes so much during sleep that it creates a blockage in the airway. 

It’s reported that an estimated 33 million people2 use CPAP machines, and just under 40 million American adults have obstructive sleep apnea. 

Discover the Best CPAP Machines here.

Travel CPAP Machines

Travel CPAP machines are smaller, more lightweight, and portable versions of CPAP devices, which can make it easier to travel with them. Many are battery-powered, which makes it less challenging to do things like camping, and some even offer waterless humidification. 

If you plan to bring along a travel CPAP on a flight, make sure it meets any important requirements and that you have the necessary documentation.

APAP Machines

Automatic Positive Airway Pressure (APAP) devices are another type of PAP machine. APAP devices automatically adjust the level of air pressure the sleeper receives, which changes based on their breathing patterns3. Although the pressure may change throughout the night, it remains the same for the inhalation and exhalation. 

APAP machines are also used to treat obstructive sleep apnea, specifically when apnea symptoms change depending on sleep stages or sleeping position4. The machine decreases pressure when it detects normal breathing and increases pressure when it senses breathing decreases.

BiPAP Machines

BiPAP means bilevel positive airway pressure. This machine is programmed to deliver two set levels of pressure to the sleeper – a higher pressure for inhaling and a lower one for exhaling5.  

This treatment can be useful for people with obstructive sleep apnea who struggle to breathe out6 against the constant pressure of a CPAP. 

BiPAP machines are also used to treat those with central sleep apnea, another form of sleep apnea that involves the brain not sending correct breathing signals to the muscles.5 Additionally, BiPAPs can be used in the treatment of heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and hypercapnic respiratory failure.5

How Do PAP Machines Differ?

DesignWho Should Use It?Average Cost Without Insurance 
CPAP Motorized unit, hosing, and mask. People with obstructive sleep apnea.$500-$1,000
Travel CPAPMotorized unit, hosing, and mask.People with sleep apnea who require a more portable device.$800-$1,000
APAPMotorized unit, hosing, and mask.People with obstructive sleep apnea triggered by sleep stages or sleep positions$600-$1,600
BiPAPMotorized unit, hosing, and mask.People with obstructive sleep apnea who haven’t found a CPAP effective, or people with central sleep apnea.$1,700-$3,000

Which Type of PAP Machine is Best for You? 

Ultimately, your doctor will be the one to prescribe you a particular type of PAP machine. However, there are some general recommendations.

  • CPAP – CPAP is the most common treatment for people diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. This is often used as the first line of defense for OSA.
  • Travel CPAP -These machines suit people who travel regularly and need a more compact, portable version of a CPAP. People may choose to get a travel CPAP in addition to their home one, though insurance may only cover the at-home CPAP device.
  • APAP – APAP is often used to treat more complex forms of obstructive sleep apnea, where symptoms change depending on how the sleeper is positioned or which sleep stage they’re in.4 
  • BiPAP – BiPAP is suitable for patients with obstructive sleep apnea who need a lower air pressure setting for exhaling, or those with central sleep apnea.5, 6

Do You Need a Prescription for PAP Machines?

Yes, a prescription is required7 to purchase a PAP machine. The reason for this is that a healthcare provider will need to assess your symptoms to advise which machine and pressure level is best for you. However, once you have a prescription, you can either elect to purchase through your insurance or buy one on your own.

Does Health Insurance Cover PAP Machines?

PAP machines are classed as durable medical equipment8, so most healthcare insurers will cover a PAP device and accessories9. However, this is provided that you have been formally diagnosed with a condition requiring PAP treatment and that you meet certain criteria. However, it’s best to check with your insurer to understand what their particular policy is.  

Many insurers – like Medicare – have strict compliance rules, which means that data will be collected from your machine to ensure you’re using your equipment as you should be.

More Details: Cost of CPAP Machines and Does Insurance Cover CPAPs?

Frequently Asked Questions

What does CPAP stand for?

CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. A CPAP machine provides a steady flow of pressurized air to your airways through a tube and mask, which helps keep your airways open. This allows people with sleep-related breathing disorders like sleep apnea to breathe more normally while sleeping.

How much do CPAP machines cost?

The cost of CPAP machines varies. If you purchase directly, rather than through insurance, you can expect to pay from $500 to $1,000 for a standard CPAP machine. More complex machines like a BiPAP are more expensive, starting at around $1,700. However, these costs don’t include necessary accessories, like masks, tubing, and filters, which require regular replacement.

How do I get a CPAP machine?

To acquire a CPAP machine, you must have a formal diagnosis and prescription from your healthcare provider. In the case of sleep apnea, this usually involves a referral to a sleep clinic where you will undergo a sleep study, either at the clinic or at home.

Lisa Bowman

Lisa Bowman


About Author

Lisa is a content writer for Sleep Advisor, which combines two of her greatest passions – writing and sleeping. She can also be found writing about fitness, sustainability and vegan food.

Combination Sleeper


  • 1. Pinto, Venessa., Sharma, Sandeep. “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure”. StatPearls. 2023.
  • 2. Ling ND, Vanessa. “Sleep Apnea Statistics and Facts You Should Know”. National Council on Aging. 2023.
  • 3. “Positive Airway Pressure Treatment”. University of Florida Health. Last modified January 1, 2022.
  • 4. “APAP vs CPAP: Sleep apnea treatments explained”. ResMed. Webpage accessed November 11, 2023.
  • 5. “BiPAP”. Cleveland Clinic. Last modified May 10, 2023.
  • 6. Girouard, Ayla. “CPAP vs. BiPAP vs. APAP: What’s the Difference?”. National Council on Aging. 2023.
  • 7. “CPAP Machine”. Cleveland Clinic. Last modified November 9, 2021.
  • 8. “Medicare Coverage of Durable Medical Equipment & Other Devices”. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services”. Last modified August 2021.
  • 9. Riva, Miranda M. “A Guide to Medicare Coverage of CPAP Machines and Supplies in 2023”. National Council on Aging. 2023.