A "sleep apnea breathing machine" does not actually breathe for you. The sleep apnea machine is designed to create just enough pressure to keep your airway from collapsing during sleep, a sign of obstructive sleep apnea.
The most common types of sleep apnea machines are:
CPAP -- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure is the most effective way of treating obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP blows a continuous stream of pressurized air into the windpipe to keep it from collapsing. Although CPAP is the most common type of sleep apnea machine, some may find this sleep apnea equipment difficult to use. Because the airflow is constant, your lungs may have to work harder to exhale against the current, making it more difficult for some to breathe normally.
Auto CPAP -- Automatic continuous positive airway pressure (AutoPAP or APAP) sleep apnea machines are very similar to regular CPAP machines but offer a range of pressure settings that fluctuate to meet the breathing needs of each patient. It automatically adjusts the air pressure for each breath to the minimum necessary to maintain an open air path.
BiPAP -- Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure works at two different pressure levels to treat sleep apnea. It exerts a higher pressure that is similar to that of the CPAP when you inhale, then drops to a lower pressure when you exhale, making it easier for the lungs to push out air. The two different air pressures are set on a timer to work with your breathing pattern. This sleep apnea breathing machine may be a better option for those who have difficulty breathing against the continuous pressure of the CPAP.
BiPAP IMV or ST -- These variations of BiPAP sleep apnea equipment have a back-up response system if the user stops breathing. BiPAP with IMV (intermittent mandatory ventilation) senses a lapse in breathing and delivers bursts of air at pre-set pressures to stimulate breathing. The bilevel continuous airway pressure spontaneous-timed (BiPAP ST) sleep apnea machine is very similar -- if a break in breathing is detected for a certain length of time, BiPAP ST produces a higher pressure airflow.
ASV -- A recent addition to sleep apnea machines, Adaptive Servo-Ventilation is more often used to treat central sleep apnea. It not only provides continuous pressure to keep the airway open but adjusts breathing patterns as needed. ASV continuously monitors your breathing pattern and stores that information onto a computer throughout the night. If sleep apnea occurs, ASV increases pressure to maintain breathing at 90 percent of what was normal before breathing was interrupted. Once the patient starts breathing on his or her own again, the ASV slowly resumes to its minimal pressure setting (approximately 50 percent) for continued support of the airway structure.