The ABCs of CPAP devices

What is a CPAP device used for?

CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) devices are used to treat obstructive sleep apnea.

They do not cure sleep apnea or snoring. For that, a surgical procedure is required. The role of the CPAP machine is to counteract the respiratory obstruction that causes snoring and apnea.

It has a mask and a tube that continuously delivers air to the airways. The air pushes on the tissues of the respiratory system to keep them open. This prevents them from collapsing or closing, which is what causes snoring problems or apnea.

The purpose of the CPAP machine is to correct your breathing problems to improve the quality of your sleep.

Understanding sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is characterized by a complete cessation or decrease (hypopnea) of the respiratory flow for at least 10 seconds. This medical condition results in sleep deprivation which, in the long term, can lead to serious health problems.

Managing the treatment of sleep apnea is key. Respiratory professionals can offer a comprehensive approach to care. Devices such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines and nasal masks also help treat this condition.

Concerns about CPAP devices

If you have concerns and questions about using a CPAP device, we have the answers.

Will I sleep well?

When used properly, a CPAP machine can completely eliminate breathing problems that interfere with your sleep. In other words, the CPAP machine can be 100% effective. The only limitation of the device is your ability to wear it while you sleep.


Is it safe?

If used improperly, a CPAP device can reduce the sleep quality of the wearer. However, this happens in a very small proportion of cases. For people with frequent sleep apnea, a CPAP machine is safe and will improve the quality of sleep and daily life far more than it could harm your health.


How long does it take to adjust to the device?

People who get a CPAP machine adjust to this therapy at varying rates. Some may feel the benefits after only a few days of use. Others will need a few weeks to see improvements in their sleep and quality of life.

Who may need a CPAP device?

A CPAP machine is non-invasive and can help combat a variety of breathing disorders in children and adults.


Medical conditions that may benefit from the use of a CPAP device include:

  • Poor breathing control
  • Neuromuscular weakness
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Non-acute airway obstruction
  • Sleep apnea
  • Central apnea


CPAP devices are contraindicated in certain circumstances, including:

  • Respiratory arrest
  • Unstable cardiorespiratory status
  • Some facial or oral surgeries

Four types of CPAP devices

Not all CPAP devices are the same. They fall into four broad categories.

CPAP machines

These are the most common type of breathing machine. The air pressure they produce to help keep respiratory tissues open is constant. Some devices reduce the pressure during exhalation.

Auto CPAP machines

Auto CPAP machines can increase or decrease air pressure as your breathing rate changes. People who are less tolerant of a CPAP device or who sleep in different positions at night will prefer this type of machine.

BiPAP machines

These machines have two air pressure settings and go from a higher pressure when you inhale to a lower pressure when you exhale.

Portable CPAP machines

These handheld devices are designed to be worn while travelling, on long trips. Some can even be worn when flying.

CPAP device accessories

There are a variety of accessories that can make your CPAP device more comfortable or effective. Here are some examples:


A humidifier will protect you from some of the side effects that can sometimes come with regular CPAP machine use. These include nasal congestion and dry mouth.

An air tube connects the mask to your CPAP device. Some tubing is more flexible and makes wearing the mask more comfortable. Heated tubing can improve comfort by optimizing the temperature and humidity of inhaled air. Smaller-diameter tubes can reduce stress on the mask and make it less intrusive.

An air filter prevents fine particles and dust from the ambient air from entering your device. It should be changed or cleaned regularly. Some filters are designed for longer life or specific devices.

A travel kit sold for some CPAP devices can be used to carry them when travelling. It’s designed to protect the device and mask during transport.


Our compact, easy-to-use CPAP devices

Médicus offers a number of high-quality devices to treat sleep apnea, such as CPAP machines and nasal masks. Talk to our respiratory therapists for more information on respiratory therapy treatments.

Got any questions? 

Contact one of our respiratory therapists