Know your CPAP Equipment

October 21st was National Check your Meds Day…weird holiday, I know. However, there is some merit to the reasoning behind the idea. Millions of people take daily prescriptions, most of which are required for them to function properly.

It is important to be educated about those medications: know what they are made of, the side effects the medicine causes, how much they should be taking, and how often.

The same goes for CPAP equipment and supplies. It is best to know anything and everything about the machine, mask, supplies, and therapy in general. Do me a favor…use this article as a guideline to increase your knowledge about your treatment.

cpap treatment

CPAP Equipment: Machine

CPAP machines are simple to use, but their inner workings are complex. The main components are the motor, humidifier (if used), filters, pressure settings and other settings.


The CPAP motor is essentially a mini compressor. It uses room temperature air and pressurizes it to the exact specifications of your settings. Generally, CPAP motors are extremely quiet.


Most CPAP machines also have a small water tank that heats up the water to provide moisture to the air you breath in. These built-in humidifiers are ideal for people living in dry or arid climates and those that frequently wake with dry mouth, throat, or nasal cavities.

CPAP filtersFilters

The air intake portion of the machine has a replaceable filter that cleans the air of particulates, germs & bacteria. There are different types of filters including:

  • Disposable ultra-fine filters (with or without tab)
  • Reusable foam filters (simply wash weekly for longest life-span)
  • Bacteria filters (these filters attach to the tubing also, as opposed to just the machine)


This is how the air gets from the machine to the CPAP mask on your face. There are numerous different types, lengths and brands of tubing. There’s:

  • Universal tubing (available in 18″, 2ft, 4ft, 6ft, 7ft, 8ft, 9ft, & 10ft)
  • Heated tubing
  • Slimline tubing
  • ClimateLine MAX tubing (better for higher BiPAP pressure settings)

Pressure Settings

There are 3 types of CPAP machines as of now. They are standard CPAP, APAP and BiPAP (or Bi-Level)

  • CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)
    • The simplest form of CPAP machines.
    • The air pressure is fixed, therefore the air will blow constantly at the prescribed pressure.
  • APAP (Auto Positive Airway Pressure)
    • Also referred to as “auto CPAP”.
    • The pressure fluctuates between a range of pressures rather than staying at one.
  • BiPAP (Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure)
    • More serious cases of sleep apnea require this machine.
    • BiPAP’s have individual pressures for inhalation and exhalation.

ramp settingOther Settings

Some other important settings within a CPAP machine are:

  • Ramp: This feature allows you to either fall asleep or gradually get used to the pressure each night. The pressure starts at a low setting and increases to your prescribed pressure over a set period of time.
  • Flex/EPR: The ability to reduce the air pressure by 1, 2 or 3 pressure points as the machine detects when you begin to exhale. For instance, your machine is set at 10cm H2O, and the FLEX/EPR is at 3. The machine will always deliver 10cm H2O when you inhale, and then automatically reduce to 7cm H2O as you exhale. This is a helpful feature to most patients, especially to those of you that have high pressure settings.
  • Data Storage: Pretty much all CPAP machines have the capability to store the information from your therapy. Select machines are able to send the info to the proper outlets via an internet connection.
  • SmartStart: This feature allows for you to simply put your mask on and begin breathing to start therapy.
  • Leak Alert: The machine will sound an alarm when a leak is detected. This is meant to wake you up so you can figure out the issue.
  • Mask Alert: Some machines alert you when your mask has come off at night. The machine detects no resistance of the airflow and sounds an alarm to wake you up.

CPAP Equipment: Masks

exploded view cpap mask

CPAP masks are complex in their own right; multiple pieces functioning together to form the mask.


  • The cushion is the piece responsible for creating the airtight seal with your face.
  • They come in 3 main forms: full face, nasal & nasal pillow.
  • Cushions are made entirely of silicone and latex-free plastic
  • One type of mask offers a memory foam cushion.


  • This is the focal point of the entire mask. It gives the mask the bulk of its size and shape.
  • For example, the frame of a full face mask would be larger than the frame of a nasal pillow mask.
  • Most frames are made of plastic, however some are made from a soft silicone like the Philips Respironics Dreamwear frames.


  • The headgear is what secures the mask to your head & face. CPAP mask headgear is made of soft nylon material.
  • All headgear are adjustable, and some masks offer multiple sizes.

Forehead Support & Pad

  • As the name implies, this piece rests on your forehead to give support to the mask.
  • Forehead supports & pads are only apart of full face and nasal masks.
  • Nasal pillow masks do not require them because they are supported on your face differently.

Headgear Clips

  • These clips attach the headgear to the mask frame.
  • They allow you to easily remove the headgear from the frame for cleaning and ease of use.
  • Some clips are magnetic, making the removal process that much easier.

Port Caps

  • Oxygen tubing is attached to the ports for supplemental oxygen.
  • The cap should remain in place unless the oxygen tubing is connected.


  • Air that is not inhaled is redirected by the vent.
  • That allows for effective, quiet therapy.


  • The elbow connects the mask to the tubing.
  • Most of them have a swivel feature that gives you more freedom of movement while you sleep.

CPAP Equipment: Comfort Products & Accessories

CPAP therapy is an intricate process, as you can see. Even though the following products are not crucial to your therapy, knowing their benefits is definitely an advantage.

CPAP Sanitizer UnitCPAP Sanitizers

Even though you’re able to clean the equipment by hand, having one of these sanitizing machines is a life-saver.

  • We currently offer two, the SoClean™ 2 and VirtuCLEAN.
  • They both offer 99.9% germ and bacteria elimination.
  • The process uses “activated oxygen” or “ozone” to sanitize the equipment.
  • Easy to use!

CPAP Pillows

  • Pillows designed to make your CPAP therapy as comfortable as possible.
  • Some offer special pockets and folds that redirect the tubing out of your way as you sleep.
  • Pillows are made out of a super-soft material.
  • Memory foam pillows are also available.

Pad-A-Cheek Products

  • Designed to eliminate any discomfort you experience with the CPAP mask.
  • Items include, mask liners, barrel cozy’s, strap pads & forehead pads.
  • We offer a variety of colors!

Mask Cleaner & Wipes

  • Cleaning products include mask wipes, mask sprays & concentrated cleansers
  • Mask wipes are available in unscented & scented, as well as travel-sized

Tubing Wraps

  • Designed to eliminate the “rain out” effect.
  • Buildup of moisture can cause issues with your therapy.
  • We offer many styles and colors, as well.


  • Much like standard lotion, these moisturizers help you avoid skin irritation and rashes.


  • The benefits of CPAP aromatherapy are sinus relief, comforting scents, and clean-smelling CPAP equipment.
  • Essential oil is applied to a diffuser-pad placed behind your machine’s filter.
  • Therefore, the scent you chose is spread throughout the entire system.
  • Multiple scents are available!


  • “Eliminate the Side Effects of CPAP Therapy.” CPAP Victoria, 21 Nov. 2015,
  • Phillips, Kevin. “Alaska Sleep Education Center.” CPAP Therapy: How It Works, Getting Set up, & Results, 17 July 2014,

About the Author


Jason Smith is recognized by the board of polysomnographic technologists (BRPT) as a registered polysomnographic technologist (RPSGT) since 2003. He is also Director of Clinical Operations for 6 multi-state sleep diagnostic facilities including the nation’s largest 20 bed sleep disorder testing center. Jason has also been a Co-Author with two research publications featured in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.