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Continuous positive air pressure, or CPAP, is a type of therapy used to treat symptoms of sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by temporary loss of breath during the night. CPAP machines supply air to sleepers that has been humidified and pressurized to a prescribed rate; this eases the breathing process and helps prevent sleep disruption from apnea episodes. In addition to standard-size machines used in bedrooms, many people rely on travel-size CPAP machines when they are on the road.
Travel CPAP machines perform the same functions as standard-size models, but are lighter and more portable. They typically include the CPAP machine, as well as a built-in or integrated humidifier and connective hose used to link the CPAP user’s breathing mask to the machine (masks are always sold separately). Like standard CPAP machines, travel CPAP machines always require a doctor’s prescription; they are sold through a wide range of online and brick-and-mortar retailers.
This guide will discuss important considerations for travel CPAP machine shoppers, and also includes our picks for the top five travel CPAP machines sold today. Our choices are based on verified customer and owner experiences, as well as intensive product research and analysis.
Our Editor’s Pick is the Philips Respironics DreamStation Go Auto, which is a standout travel device for several reasons. Weighing 1.86 pounds, the machine is lightweight even by travel-size CPAP standards and should easily fit into any bag or suitcase. It is also FAA-compliant and approved for in-flight use for those with long flights planned, as well as Bluetooth-compatible. Users can track their sleep data using built-in DreamMapper technology.
The machine includes a flexible pressure setting for people who struggle to breathe during exhalation. Customers have the option of including a heated humidifier and/or a rechargeable battery with their purchase. The DreamStation Go Auto has an integrated USB port, as well, making it easy to charge phones, tablets, and other smart devices. Customers receive a 15-day risk-free trial when they purchase the device. It is also backed by a two-year warranty.
Our Best Portability pick, the ResMed AirMini, is exceptionally light – 0.66 pounds – and easy to store in any suitcase or overnight bag. It comes fully loaded with helpful features. These include the AutoRamp option, which begins the CPAP therapy at low-pressure settings and gradually increases to the prescribed rate; this makes it easier for CPAP recipients to fall asleep. The device offers auto-start, as well.
EPR technology also sets the machine to a low-pressure setting during exhalation to reduce discomfort for users. Additionally, ResMed AirMini owners can download the device to their smartphone or tablet to adjust settings remotely and track sleep data. The ResMed AirMini includes a HumidX waterless humidifier, a power cord, and a portable drawstring bag for easier storage.
The Z2 Auto CPAP machine from HDM is our Most Innovative pick due to its advanced design and sophisticated features. Users can track their sleep duration, apnea episodes, and other data using the Nitelog app on their smartphone or tablet. The Z2 Auto CPAP also has user-friendly manual controls and a crisp, LCD display. The machine comes with a waterless humidifier that connects between the machine and the hose. A custom USB cable and ultraslim tubing are also included with each purchase.
At 10 ounces and 2.25″ high, the machine is also lightweight and small-framed even by travel CPAP standards. The machine is also equipped with a soft motor that reduces noise, making it suitable for planes, trains, and other forms of public transportation. Unlike standard CPAP machines, this automatic CPAP (AutoPAP) device will automatically adjust the pressure rate to match the sleeper’s breathing patterns. This results in much less sleep disruption night after night.
Our Best Features pick goes to the Transcend 365 Auto miniCPAP Machine from Somnetics. At 1.69 pounds including the heated humidifier, this device is one of the lightest CPAP machines available. However, its small design boasts a wide range of high-tech features and functions. These include EZEX flexible breathing technology with a 45-minute ramp time, an external battery that can simultaneously charge the machine and humidifier, and a data transferability option for PC and laptop owners.
The humidifier is also highly advanced. Using CFV technology, it delivers humidified air during inhalation only, which makes breathing easier and more comfortable for most users. A color LCD screen with large buttons serves as the interface, allowing any user to easily operate the machine. It will function properly at altitudes of up to 8,000 feet, as well. The Transcend 365 Auto miniCPAP Machine is backed by a three-year warranty, which is longer than average.
Millions of Americans live with sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by temporary loss of breath during sleep. Most people with sleep apnea also experience chronic snoring. There are two general types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is caused by physical obstructions that hinder air circulation in the breathing passages; and central sleep apnea (CSA), which occurs when the brain is unable to send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. There is no cure for sleep apnea, but positive air pressure, or PAP, therapy often alleviates the symptoms of this disorder. People with OSA may find relief from continuous positive air pressure machines, or CPAP machines, which delivers pressurized air at a prescribed rate throughout the night, while those with CSA usually get the most relief from bi-level positive air pressure machines, or BiPAP machines, which can deliver air at variable pressure rates.
CPAP machines are an essential sleep accessory for many people with obstructive sleep apnea, but some models designed for use in bedrooms are relatively large and heavy, and require an electrical outlet. For this reason, travel CPAP machines may be a useful investment for people with OSA. These models are compact, lightweight, and — in many cases — are self-powering. This guide will look at some common designs and features of travel CPAP machines, some buying tips, our picks for the top travel CPAP models, and suggestions for other sleep accessories that make travel more bearable for people with sleep problems.
All CPAP machines operate in the same manner, and include the following components:
It’s important to note that CPAP machines and CPAP masks both require a doctor’s prescription, and are never legally available over the counter. When comparing CPAP machine brands and models, here are a few specifications to take into account:
The pressure of air delivered through CPAP machines is measured in centimeters of water, or cmH20. Most apnea patients require airflow with a pressure range of 6 to 14 cmH20, and CPAP machines are designed to deliver anywhere from 4 to 20 cmH20 of air pressure. Some models may offer a wider range, as well.
In order to ease the breathing process, some CPAP machines are designed to slightly reduce the air pressure whenever the user is exhaling. This somewhat mimics the natural breathing process.
CPAP machines may be powered with AC and DC voltage. To accommodate voltage differences, most models can operate on 110 to 240 AC voltage. Batteries typically deliver 12 DC volt currents. Unlike standard machines, some travel CPAP machines come with integrated batteries that allow owners to use the machine when an outlet is unavailable.
Ramp time refers to how long a CPAP machine requires to reach a prescribed rate after the machine has been switched on. The ramp time for most CPAP machines sold today falls between 30 and 60 minutes.
CPAP machines can be somewhat noisy. The volume is measured in decibels (dbA), and most models measure 25 to 30 dbA.
Due to changes in air pressure that occur at certain elevations, most CPAP machines have a maximum operating altitude of 7,500 to 8,500 feet.
CPAP machines can usually be operated in temperatures between 41 to 95°F (5 to 35°C). For storage and transport, the general range is -4 to 140°F (-20 to 60°C) — but this range tends to vary by model.
Some CPAP models are equipped with a function known as automatic positive air pressure, or APAP. This automatically adjusts the pressure rate for users based on their breathing patterns (as opposed to BiPAP, which must be adjusted for variable pressure rates), and also adjusts to elevation changes.
CPAP machines may be able to transmit data using a built-in Bluetooth connection that wirelessly connects to phones and tablets. Capabilities vary by model, but this data may include:
Although travel CPAP machines operate the same way as standard models, there are some key differences to note. The table below illustrates some of these differences.
|Characteristic||Regular CPAP Machine||Travel CPAP Machine|
|Average Dimensions||6W” x 10L” x 6H”||4W” x 6L” x 2H”|
|Average Weight||4 to 5 lbs.||1.5 lbs. or less|
|Power Source||AC and/or DC||AC and/or DC
Integrated battery included with some
|Humidifier Capacity||325 to 425 mL||325 mL or less
Waterless humidifier may be included
Humidifier not included with some
|Average Cost||$200 to $800||$250 to $600|
CPAP users should take certain precautions when traveling with a portable machine. Air travel tips for CPAP users include the following:
Additionally, here are a few general tips for traveling overseas with a portable CPAP machine:
When shopping for a new travel CPAP machine and comparing different brands and models, here are a few factors to take into account:
In addition to travel CPAP machines, here are a few more sleep accessories that will help you catch some much-needed rest when you are in transit and after you reach your destination.
Headphones are an indispensible travel accessory for many. In addition to being used with music players, they can effectively block outside noise in loud environments (such as planes and hotel rooms). Several designs are available, including on-ear, over-ear, and in-ear (or earbud) varieties, as well as sleep masks or headbands with built-in headphones. Although prices vary, shoppers can find many options that are priced at $30 or lower. Remember one thing: long-term headphone use has been linked to certain health issues, including hearing loss and earwax impaction (for in-ear models).
To learn more, please visit our Best Headphones for Sleeping guide.
Rather than using headphones, some people prefer to use simple earplugs that expand when inserted into the ear canal. Earplugs are inexpensive — they are usually sold in bulk at $20 to $30 for 50 to 200 individual pairs — and may be made from foam, silicone, or wax. However, like headphones, earplugs carry risks of hearing loss and earwax impaction, and some users also develop ear infections from long-term use.
Check out our Best Earplugs for Sleeping guide to learn more.
Sleep masks are essentially blindfolds that block outside light, which helps users relax and fall asleep in bright environments. Sleep masks are usually made from fabrics like cotton, silk, or polyester, and some feature foam padding for extra comfort. The majority of sleep masks sold today are priced at $20 or less, and are widely available through different online and brick-and-mortar sellers.
For more information, check out our Best Sleep Mask Reviews guide.
Travel pillows offer extra support and comfort for people on the road, particularly those who utilize planes, trains, and other forms of public transportation, as well as campers and hikers who sleep in tents or on the bare ground. Most travel pillows sold today are U-shaped with elevated backs for targeted shoulder support, and they may be inflatable or non-inflatable. The majority of these pillows are priced between $10 and $40.
Check out our Best Travel Pillows guide for more details.