How does Auto CPAP work?

  • By Clay Rollyson
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  Whether you call it APAP, Auto CPAP or Auto-Titrating CPAP you get the same result. For the sake of the article, we will call it Auto CPAP. Auto CPAP is a form of Positive Airway Pressure therapy. In the Auto mode the CPAP machine will adjust to the best pressure for your needs every night. This therapy is by far the most widely used at this point. Very few CPAP users are going the route of a Lab Study, Titration, and fixed pressure CPAP therapy.

Why is Auto CPAP the best Choice?

You always should consult with your doctor to determine what therapy option is best for you and your Sleep Apnea needs. With that being said almost all of the Sleep doctors that we work with are ordering Auto CPAP instead of Fixed Pressure CPAP. This is because of a few different factors:
  1. Insurance Authorizations for Sleep Studies– In many cases your insurance carrier will not authorize a Lab Sleep Study. This is where you spend the night in a lab. These are very expensive, and the Home Sleep Test options have become much more accurate and cheaper. If you do a Home Sleep Test, then you must use an Auto CPAP due to the fact that you cannot be titrated for Fixed Pressure CPAP in the lab.
  2. It actually works– Not only does Auto-CPAP allow you to titrate in your own home, but it actually will report on how well it is working. You can follow up with your doctor after using Auto CPAP for a few weeks and they will be able to tell you how well your therapy is working for you. If it isn’t then you can work with that doctor to take next steps.
  3. Things Change– Whether you have gained or lost weight, drank alcohol before bed, or started new medications, your sleep can change with time. The nice thing about Auto CPAP is that it will change with you. So, if you lose weight and need less pressure or got sloshed on Busch light and need more pressure, the Auto CPAP will make the adjustment.

How does Auto CPAP work?

All Auto CPAPs have their own proprietary algorithm that monitors your breathing and adjusts the pressure accordingly to account for Apnea. To simplify that all the way down, as you stop breathing (Apnea) the pressure increases slightly until your airways are opened. The differences between Auto models usually have to do with how quickly the unit adjusts and by how much. Some models adjust up and down slowly so that you can adjust more easily. These models are great for first time users. Other models are more aggressive and will adjust more dramatically. These models are great for Severe Sleep Apnea and those that are already accustomed to CPAP therapy. Many models allow you to select a more aggressive or less aggressive algorithm to help you find a more comfortable CPAP therapy.

What is the difference between CPAP and Auto CPAP?

CPAP is usually referring to a Fixed pressure CPAP. This means that when you turn on the CPAP it will go to one pressure and stay there at all times. That pressure is usually determined by a Sleep Lab Titration Study. Auto CPAP is a CPAP that Automatically adjusts to the best pressure for you on a nightly basis. This means that no matter what you night is like, your Auto CPAP will work to provide the most suitable pressure for your therapy needs.

What is the downside to Auto CPAP?

While there are a lot of great things to love about Auto CPAP therapy, there are downsides:
  1. It takes time– The first issue is that it takes a little time to adjust itself to your best pressure. For many long-term CPAP users this can be a big problem. If you are accustomed to a certain pressure on your old CPAP, and you switch to Auto CPAP it will take time to adjust. More than likely, it will get to a comfortable pressure over the first week or two.
  2. New CPAP users give up– Another issue with a delay in proper therapy pressure is new users giving up before they get proper therapy. If you are starting CPAP and wake up feeling the exact same, it can be frustrating. So, when new users begin on Auto CPAP and do not get past those initial few days out of frustration they may quit.
  3. Maybe you need more than a CPAP– For some people suffering from Severe Sleep Apnea you may need more than just a CPAP. This would be easily determined in a Lab Study but may not be if you did a Home Sleep Test and started Auto CPAP at home. That is why it is important to keep a close eye on your Therapy Data from your Auto CPAP report to make sure that you get a proper reduction in your Sleep Apnea.

How do I know if Auto CPAP is working for me?

The most important thing is to treat the Sleep Apnea. Luckily, almost all of the newer Auto CPAP models record and report on your therapy in detail. These detailed reports will allow you and your doctor to monitor your Usage and Therapy to determine how well it is working. You will see things like AHI, Mask Leak, Hours of Use, and more. You and your doctor can use this information to make certain that you are receiving benefit from you Auto CPAP. If you are not, your doctor can help you move to a therapy more suitable to your needs.