CPAP Expert Toll-Free Customer Support

CPAP Machine Buyer's Guide

CPAP Buyers Guide
Download this guide here.


What Does a CPAP Machine Do?


Defining Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a very common condition that occurs when the brain and the rest of the body do not get enough oxygen (hypoxemia), leading to repeated halts in breathing. According to Dr. Samuel Becker, Director of Rhinology at the Becker ENT Center:

When this happens, our heart works harder than usual to deliver blood to our end organs which need oxygen to function. While the heart is designed to function at higher capacity on occasion, doing this on a regular, prolonged basis can lead to negative consequences both for the heart and for the organs to which it pumps blood.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of apnea, though less severe cases still require treatment. In obstructive sleep apnea, the tissues of the soft tissues of the face and neck collapse and obstruct your airway. Treating sleep apnea properly, with a CPAP machine and mask, will alleviate most side effects and symptoms and also supports breathing patterns for a full night of uninterrupted sleep.


Effects of Sleep Apnea

Sleep is an essential part of your health according to Dr. Becker. Sleep is a time when the body recharges and prepares for the next day. Without proper sleep, it is difficult for the mind and body to function at full capacity. Poor sleep impacts everything from focus and cognition to blood pressure and metabolism.

Obstructive sleep apnea prevents you from entering deep restful sleep. When sleep apnea temporarily halts breathing, your brain signals your body to wake up. When you suffer from sleep apnea, you continually fall asleep and wake up. In addition to feeling tired, sleep apnea has been tied to serious health conditions.

  • Overweight
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Heart failure that may lead to heart attacks
  • Constant Headaches
  • Alzheimers



How CPAP Therapy Works


In obstructive sleep apnea, the airway is blocked with tissues of the face and neck collapse and interfere with the flow of air. CPAP or "Continuous Positive Airway Pressure" involves a machine that increases the pressure in the airway to prevent this collapse and keeps the airway open. The CPAP reduces the number of apneas allowing you experience REM sleep.

Stacy was sick for many years. She tried everything from special diets to medications, but she was constantly tired. She could sleep for sixteen hours a day and still feel fatigued. Finally, after fifteen years of misdiagnoses, a doctor ordered a sleep study. She got a CPAP right away and started feeling relief after the third night of using it.

One of my favorite moments was the Sunday after I got my machine. I went into the office, where my husband was working and said "Dave! It's 4pm on a Sunday... do you notice anything different about me?" "Yes!" He said. "You're not asleep!"

Though it might be uncomfortable at first, a CPAP machine can keep you asleep all night long without the risk of dangerous pauses in breathing. A CPAP setup can ensure that you do not suffer from these symptoms and that you experience better sleep for a more productive day!

Man sleeping with a CPAP machine.


Getting a Prescription


Is a prescription required?

A prescription is required for all machines, complete mask systems and humidifiers. Your prescription will detail the proper pressure setting that your machine needs to be set at for efficient sleep therapy. A prescription can be used multiple times through the year, and your supplier will generally call your physician and obtain the prescription for you.

If you’d rather submit your prescription, you can fax or email your script to the DME supplier that you are getting your supplies from. Many websites also offer a submission form where you can submit your prescription information online!

What doesn't required a prescription?

Other sleep therapy items like filters, tubing and cushions for your mask do not require a prescription, and you can order those at any time online.

Who can write my CPAP prescription?

Your physician, psychiatrist, Doctor of Osteopathy, Nurse Practitioner, Dentist or Naturopathic Physician can all write a prescription for a CPAP. These prescriptions are generally for a lifetime and do not need to be refilled. If your script has a set expiration date, you will need to visit your doctor for a refill.



Taking the Sleep Study


Home Sleep Study: For those who don’t have a doctor’s referral to a sleep specialist or prefer to pay for a sleep study out-of-pocket, it is possible to do a sleep study at home. We work with a selection of qualified sleep clinicians who can determine what kind of home sleep test is most appropriate for you and help you read the results to get the proper treatment plan in place to best meet your needs. The home sleep study is usually a good option for someone who knows for certain that they are suffering from sleep apnea symptoms.

Overnight Oximetry Test: Pulse oximetry measures the oxygen level of the blood by comparing the absorption of red and infrared light by the blood. When a patient has an "apneic" event, they stop breathing for a short period of time. When this occurs, delivery of oxygen is slowed, and the oxygen saturation level - monitored by the oximeter - drops. It is through this relationship, that pulse oximetry may be used to detect sleep apnea.

Sleep Lab: Preparing for a sleep study in the lab is an important step — you should have everything you need to sleep comfortably, as well as a few extra items to ensure you have a nice experience. Overall, be sure to bring your comfortable pajamas, a toothbrush and some light reading material. It’s also helpful to go through your daily routine as usual so you’re tired enough to go to sleep in the lab.

For even more tips on preparing for your sleep study, check out our blog post:

Titration Study: If your sleep study confirms that a CPAP is the best course of treatment, you might need to take a follow-up sleep titration study. Sometimes, the titration study can be done the same night as your sleep study. The titration study will determine the exact pressure settings and type of CPAP mask you need in order to get the best treatment plan. During the visit, you will try on several different CPAP masks with various machine types that are calibrated to the pressure setting necessary to clear your airway blockage most efficiently.



What Type of CPAP Will I Need?


There are several types of CPAP machines. Depending on the severity of your sleep apnea and your doctor's recommendation, you will most likely know which machine is best for you.

  • CPAP - Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. The treatment works by using mild pressurized air, delivered at a constant pressure, to keep the airway open during the night. The air intake portion of the machine features an air filter that purifies the air delivered to the user.
  • APAP - Auto-Titrating Positive Airway Pressure. An APAP machine is another non-invasive type of therapy that delivers pressurized air to treat obstructions in the airway during sleep. The APAP machine uses a specific algorithm that best determines what pressure settings match your treatment needs and can suit your needs as they change throughout the night. Free CPAP Advice founder Jason's favorite APAP machines are Respironics, ResMed, and Fisher Paykel.
  • BiPAP - Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure. Similar to a CPAP machine, the BiPAP is designed for users who need a higher pressure setting or have previously been unable to use a CPAP.



Purchasing Your CPAP vs. Qualifying through Insurance


Purchasing CPAP on Cheap CPAP

You can purchase your CPAP machine and mask just like any normal online purchase, the only catch being that you will need a prescription to complete your order. When you visit our online store, any item that requires a prescription will be clearly marked. You can upload your prescription through our website, email us a copy, or fax a copy to our office. If you do not have your script on hand, we can also request a copy directly from your sleep doctor.

Financing Your CPAP

We offer financing through Affirm to help you manage the cost of a CPAP machine and mask. Affirm is a financial company based in San Francisco that offers easy, transparent loans with no hidden payments or surprises. All you need to do is select the Affirm Monthly Payment option at checkout and provide some basic information. Affirm provides a real-time loan decision and helps you manage payments based on what works best for you.

Qualify through Aeroflow's parent company, Aeroflow Healthcare, can process your order so your CPAP Supplies are covered by your insurance provider. Qualify through your insurance for CPAP supplies by filling out the simple online form, which sends your information to a CPAP specialist who can process your claim and help you find the best CPAP setup for your health needs and your lifestyle.



What Brand to Choose

Choosing the right brand and style of CPAP mask and machine can be difficult when you are just starting out. Our team is here to help make the transition into sleep therapy as smooth as possible. We offer products that are tried and tested to ensure that you receive a CPAP that goes beyond expectation and provides you with the comfort needed for a good night of sleep.

Most Popular CPAP Machines 0f 2018

Choosing a CPAP Mask


Research masks before you select one and review other CPAP users’ reviews. Many sleep techs just have you wear a mask what works in the sleep lab for them to successfully titrate you. This doesn't mean that mask is going to work for you long term. Visit several sleep forums and ask people there. Check out YouTube for videos and reviews on different masks. Even then you are likely going to try several masks before you find one that is perfect for you.

  • Nasal Pillows: A nasal pillow mask uses two soft silicone pillows that are inserted into the nostril: these are generally very small and lightweight and are preferred by many CPAP users over a full face mask.
  • Nasal Mask: The nasal mask is a triangular mask that fits entirely over the nose. The silicone cushion makes the fit more comfortable. Stacy was excited to try the nasal pillow, but she quickly identified it didn’t provide enough air.
  • Full Face Mask: This is the best type of mask for mouth breathers as it covers the nose and mouth. This type of mask is usually made with gel or silicone cushions to provide optimal comfort.
  • Oral Mask: The oral mask only delivers air through the mouth. An oval cushion seals around the mouth and delivers air through two small inlets in the mask. This mask is a good choice for people who have seasonal allergies or suffer with nasal congestion.

Each manufacturer has its own sizes. A medium in one manufacturer might be the equivalent in a large in another. Refer to the CPAP Mask fit guide to help choose a mask size.

Nasal Masks

Measure your actual nose size from top to bottom and side to side.


SizeHeight of Your NoseWidth of Your Nose
Petite 1.5" Tall 1.5" Wide
Small 1.75" Tall 1.5" Wide
Medium-Small 2" Tall 1.5" Wide
Medium-Wide 1.75" Tall 2" Wide
Medium 2" Tall 1.75" Wide
Large 2.25" Tall 2" Wide
Standard 1.75" Tall 1.75" Wide


Full Face Masks

Measure straight down from the middle of your pupil to just below the lower lip. It may help to imagine a horizontal line extended from your lower lip to beneath your eye, so that you can measure straight down from your pupil. Measure the width of your mouth in a natural position. (i.e. not smiling). Make sure top fits at bridge of nose, and bottom covers mouth completely.


SizeHeight of Your NoseWidth of Your Nose
Small 3.25" Tall 2.75" Wide
Medium 3.5" Tall 3.25" Wide
Large 4.25" Tall 3.25"


(NOTE: individual mask styles may vary, these sizes are a guideline)



Replacing and Cleaning CPAP Parts


One of the most important things that you can do is regularly clean your CPAP supplies. Since your CPAP mask is in direct contact with your nose and mouth and delivers air, there are many opportunities for bacteria to grow. Cleaning your CPAP setup isn’t difficult, and usually only requires some hot water, soap and a safe place to dry.

The dirtiest part of the CPAP will be the CPAP mask because it touches your skin every night. The plastic is designed to feel comfortable on your skin and to create a good seal. The thin design of the cushion leads to break down over time. One of the easiest ways to clean your CPAP is a SoClean, an automated CPAP cleaner and sanitizer. It kills 99.9% of the germs left behind in your mask, hose, and reservoir. Consider the Siesta Med Hurricane Dryer, a favorite of Jason founder of Free CPAP Advice, “there are several methods for cleaning your mask and tubing, but getting it dry quickly is another issue entirely. The Hurricane Dryer does this very well.”


Replacement Schedule

Following a replacement schedule will ensure that you’re keeping your mask and parts as clean as possible in order to get the most our of your therapy (and avoid getting sick!). Your friends and internet forums might have suggestions about cleaning, but it’s always best to follow a physician-approved replacement schedule.

  • Once a Month - Replace the pillows or cushions and disposable filters.
  • Every 3 Months - Replace mask frames including full face, nasal, and oral masks. Replace the tubing as well (tubing should be flushing more often than it is replaced. These cleaning tools can help).
  • Every 6 Months - Replace the CPAP headgear and the chinstraps, along with the non-dispoable filters.

Replacing your CPAP supplies is important for the health and longevity of your CPAP machine and mask, and is usually a benefit through insurance. While some parts of your CPAP only need to be replaced once every 6 months (like the humidifier chamber, headgear and chinstraps), some parts, like nasal cushions and disposable filters, should be replaced twice a month.


CPAP Replacement Part Reference Guide:

ProductReplacement TimeWhy?
Disposable Filters Once a month These filters are meant to be replaced regularly so that fine particles can be trapped.
Cushions and Pillows Once a Month Overtime, cushions and pillows break down and cause leaks. Replacing these items will improve sleep therapy.
Oral, Nasal, Nasal Pillow and Full Face Masks Every 3 Months Masks deteriorate over time, causing discomfort and leaks. To keep your masks clean, try the SoClean machine!
Tubing Every 3 Months As the tubing gets older, the air quality will worsen. Replacing the tubing keeps the air you are breathing clean and safe.
Headgear and Chinstraps Every 6 Months Headgear and Chinstraps will stretch overtime, becoming less and less effective.
Non-Disposable Filters Every 6 Months After 6 months of use, these filters won't be able to prevent particles from entering your machine. It is important to replace filters to maintain high air quality.
Humidifier Chamber Every 6 Months Mineral buildup can cause sinus irritation. Be sure to wash your humidifier chamber after every use with distilled water, and fully replace after 6 months.
CPAP Machine Every 5 Years Make sure to replace your CPAP machine every 5 years to stay up to date on the most effective therapy options.


Accessories and Supplies to Consider

  • Carrying Case
  • Backup Travel CPAP
  • Batteries
  • Snugglehose
  • SoClean
  • VirtuClean



Getting Acclimated to Your CPAP


Like any new piece of equipment, it takes some time to get used to a CPAP machine. It takes patience and persistence to get acclimated to a CPAP machine. PAP can be delivered by a variety of machines and masks.

Breathing with CPAP/Bilevel is completely different than how you are used to breathing. It is going to feel different. Jason suggests practice breathing with your mask and machine during the day when there’s no pressure to sleep. Allow yourself to get used to the PAP machine when you’re not tired in order to avoid any panic. When you first start sleeping with the CPAP, gradually add the different accessories. Start with the mask. Attach the tube the next time, hook it the machine the night after that.

People new to CPAP often feel claustrophobic. Taking a piecemeal approach can help. Try experimenting with different size or styles of masks.

Stacy uses two different masks and different machines. She started with the Respironics Pico Nasal Mask, but recently switched to a ResMed N20 for Her Mask. The magnetic closures are super convenient. Stacy uses the Phillips Respironics Dreamstation for regular use and a ResMed AirMini for travel and sometimes naps in the living room. If one system doesn’t work, it is important to advocate for yourself. From Stacy at CPAP Babes:

You absolutely must bug your care and support team until [it is working]. It can get to the point where you feel annoying, but remember - you are paying them for a service, they should provide excellent care for you.



CPAP and Your Health


Sleep deprivation and sleep apnea can lead to or exacerbate serious health conditions. Sleep apnea has been shown to contribute to headaches, memory loss, depression, anxiety, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's, hearing loss, memory loss, and more.

Treating your sleep apnea can lead to a better quality of life. You’ll feel more restful and have more energy. After a good night’s sleep, you will be able to concentrate better and think clearer. It will be easier to loss weight because you’ll have the energy to exercise. Your blood pressure will improve.


Side Effects

A CPAP or BiPAP machine is virtually 100% effective, but occasionally people experience some unwanted side effects.


Side EffectSolution
Dry Mouth & Tongue Use a chin strap to prevent breathing through your mouth
Dry Eyes Leak around the seal of your mask. Fix leak or purchase a new mask
Nasal Congestion Use heated humidifier
Teeth Hurt Loosen bottom mask strap
Leaking Full Face Mask Pull mask away from face and then allow it to fall back to create new seal
Bloating, burping, passing gas Sometimes the air forced into your throat goes down the esophagus. The CPAP machine may be set too high or try sleeping at a slight incline




CPAP Glossary


  • Apnea–hypopnea index: The measurement of severity of a case of sleep apnea. It’s measured by the number of apnea events that happen per hour.
  • BiPAP/BiLevel Therapy: An alternative to CPAP therapy that utilizes two different pressure settings through a facial mask. The key difference between CPAP and BiPAP is that the BiPAP system uses two pressure settings: the inspiratory positive airway pressure (IPAP) is higher and supports breathing patterns, while the expiratory positive airway pressure setting (EPAP) is lower and supports exhalation.
  • Bruxism: Grinding of the teeth. Associated with sleep apnea.
  • Central Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles to breath.
  • Complex sleep apnea (CompSA): This is a serious condition in which sleep apnea symptoms persist during attempts to treat breathing with a CPAP machine or bilevel therapy.
  • Compliance: This term defines how well and how frequently you are sticking to your treatment plan. Compliance can also be used to verify insurance claims - if a CPAP user sticks to their treatment plan their insurance provider will generally continue to offer the benefit.
  • CPAP: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It is a therapy designed to treat sleep apnea using pressurized air that is delivered at a constant pressure to ensure there are no pauses in breathing during sleep.
  • CPAP Ramp feature: Designed to allow the CPAP machine to start at a lower pressure and work up to the intended pressure over a set period of time. Starting with a lower pressure often allows the user to fall asleep easily. From there, the pressure gradually increases to the level necessary to keep the upper airway from collapsing. Not all machines have a ramp feature, but if you have trouble adjusting to the pressure you need, this might be a great feature to look for in your CPAP setup.
  • Epworth Sleepiness Scale: Questionnaire to give measure to the intensity of daytime sleepiness experienced by any given patient.
  • Expiration: Refers to breathing out, either manually or with the help of a therapy device such as a CPAP.
  • Hypertension: Commonly associated with sleep apnea because OSA is a recognized trigger for hypertension. Apnea episodes (pauses in breathing) cause a surge in systolic and diastolic pressure that elevate blood levels. In turn, people suffering from cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure have a high prevalence of apnea, so the two conditions are often thought to be connected in a cause-effect type manner.
  • Hyponea: Less than 50% decrease in airflow for 10 seconds or greater with a decrease in oxygen saturation of less than 3%.
  • Hypoxemia: An abnormally low level of oxygen in the bloodstream. According to a study on the treatment of hypoxemia in OSA: “Usually, treatment is directed at correcting the apnea, which will in turn prevent hypoxemia.”
  • Inspiration: Refers to breathing in, usually in regard to inhaling with the support of a respiratory therapy device.
  • Leak: Refers to air leaking out of the CPAP mask, causing an interruption in therapy.
  • Mask Seal: The mask seal ensures that no air escapes from your mask during therapy.
  • Nocturnal Polysomnogram (NPSG): Sleep study
  • OSA: Obstructive Sleep Disorder, a breathing disorder that results in interrupted breathing patterns that can affect sleep patterns. OSA is a serious condition that affects about 18-30 million adults in America. Most cases remain undiagnosed.
  • Outgassing: Process by which plastic component parts of CPAP masks and other CPAP supplies give off a chemical odor after being manufactured until they have been exposed to the air for a sufficiently long period of time.
  • Oximeter: A device that indirectly monitors the oxygen saturation of a patient's blood.
  • Oxygen Desaturation: An index that defines how many times per hour the blood oxygen levels drop below baseline. This is measured during a sleep study. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School defines a normal blood oxygen level (saturation) at around 96 percent. Levels below 80 percent are considered severe.
  • Polysomnogram: The scientific term for a home sleep study. The test records brain waves, oxygen levels, heart rate and breathing to detect sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
  • Polysomnographic technologist (PSGT): Technician, typically registered, who administers a sleep study.
  • REM Sleep: Characterized by rapid eye movements, this sleep cycle works to occurs at intervals during the night.
  • REM: A sleep interval that occurs during the night and is defined by rapid eye movements, increased pulse rate and more frequent bodily movements.
  • Rainout: The accumulation of water due to moist air condensing inside the tubing as it travels from machine to mask.
  • Titration: The study that determines the best pressure setting for your machine. During the study, you will also be fitted for a CPAP mask and matched to a machine that best suits your therapy needs. After you are set up with your mask and machine, you will be monitored overnight to ensure that the pressure setting works best throughout the night.
Download this guide here.

Back to top