Traveling With Your Sleep Apnea Machine: Pros and Cons

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is a leading treatment for sleep apnea and requires nightly adherence to prevent the symptoms of the disorder from returning. 

However, it can be impractical to pack and take your sleep apnea machine when you go away, either for leisure or business. Fortunately, you can acquire a Travel CPAP, allowing you to stick with your sleep apnea treatment course when away from home.

What Is a Travel CPAP?

A “Travel CPAP” is lighter and smaller than a standard CPAP device, making it more portable for traveling. Being more compact, a Travel CPAP is also easier to pack. The machine should come with an integrated or stand-alone power option and support power outlets in the US and internationally. 

A sleep apnea machine designed for travel has functions a standard machine does not in order to make using the device easier on the move. Most traveling machines will be FAA approved, which is key for sleeping on long haul flights.

It is important to consult your doctor or sleep specialist to ensure you purchase a Travel CPAP that provides the same benefits and relief from your sleep apnea symptoms as your standard device. This will include a pressure setting range specific to the severity of your sleep apnea. 


The features to consider when choosing a Travel CPAP

1. Size

Size is a primary reason for purchasing Travel CPAPs. They can vary in size, but you can pick up a CPAP machine for traveling similar in size to a smartphone. Different machines have different features, some built in, which results in the variation in sizes.

However, the key point is they should all be more compact then a standard machine. On top of that, devices designed for traveling are exceptionally light too and can weigh as little as 10 oz. 

You must also take into account masks and any add-ons such as a humidifier when contemplating the overall luggage space a travel sleep apnea machine requires.

2. Battery Charge

If you are traveling somewhere a power source is not available, for example when camping, then how long a battery lasts is an essential consideration for adhering to your sleep apnea treatment. 

Most of the popular travel devices have the option to be used with an extended battery.

A battery life for portable CPAPs tends to be between one and two days, although this can vary depending on the pressure settings required and whether you are using accessories such as a heated humidifier. 

Most battery options are rechargeable, but this is not going to help you massively until you reach a power source.

3. Options

Portable CPAPs are designed with features and options to help replicate some of the benefits of your standard machine when at home. These options include:

  • ramp features so your machine can start at a lower pressure setting to help you fall asleep, before slowly increasing the pressure to the level required to keep the upper airways open while you sleep.
  • accessories such as a heated humidifier, which is useful when traveling to drier climates, integrated batteries when power sources will not be available, and data tracking to help monitor the treatment and make changes if required.
4. Noise

You don’t want a noisy machine sat by you when trying to sleep, so the decibel level of any device is an important consideration. Today’s devices are much quieter than their predecessors, with the average device having a range between 20 and 30 decibels. To put this in perspective, 30 decibels equate with a whisper.

The Pros of Using a CPAP When Traveling

  • Uninterrupted treatment – continued adherence to CPAP is crucial in preventing the return of your sleep apnea symptoms and continuing to reduce the risk of the health issues linked to the sleep disorder. 

Travel CPAPs allow people to pack a more portable device when traveling, resisting the temptation to leave behind their device which otherwise may be deemed too bulky to pack.

  • Quiet – as long as you ensure your traveling device is a more modern model with a range around 20 to 30 decibels, you can help ensure neither you nor your partner are disturbed by noise emitted by the device.
  • Useful Displays – Some travel devices have integrated displays which make it easy to monitor and review treatment progress and to make any necessary adjustments. 

While this may mean the device will be slightly larger than other models, it means you do not require a smartphone app to operate the settings.

  • Slimmer Tubing – You can find devices which uses slimline tubing that takes up even less space in your luggage. While it will need an adjustment of the flow dynamics, another bonus from slimline tubing is it can make movement while asleep easier.
  • Mask Options – Having a correctly fitting mask is key to the effectiveness of CPAP. With standard tubing you should still be able to use your preferred mask when traveling. However, you should check that your mask is compatible with any travel device before you buy.

The Cons of Using CPAP When Traveling

  • Cost – Travel CPAPs are not particularly cheap and can cost between $450 to $1200. They are also less likely to be covered by health insurance. You may find devices that are cheaper, but the quality of the device is paramount as it needs to provide the benefits of your standard machine.
  • No humidifier – Some devices come without a humidifier, which can be a problem if you suffer with dry mouth when using CPAP, or are traveling to a drier climate. So it’s important that a travel CPAP device has a built-in humidifier.
  • Inconsistent pressure – Variations in pressure and algorithm responsiveness mean some devices don’t operate as well as standard machines. Closer attention may be needed to the settings, which should be altered by your sleep specialist if necessary.

Sleep apnea increases the risk of serious health issues like heart disease, stroke and diabetes. A sleep apnea machine that is portable for traveling ensures you can continue with your treatment when away from home.