If you’re someone who is affected by sleep apnea, the thought of planning a vacation can be fraught with concern.
Traveling at the best of times can be stressful and uncomfortable. Making sure you’re traveling safely with sleep apnea can add a little extra difficulty, and turn that vacation you’ve been looking forward to into something stressful and anxiety-inducing.
This is especially true if you’re traveling with a CPAP machine that isn’t really designed for traveling.
Thankfully, technology has allowed various brands and manufacturers to develop some very small and feature-rich CPAP machines to ensure you can travel with ease and reassurance. All of the CPAP machines in this list are FAA-approved, meaning they are safe for use during long flights or for fliers who prefer to sleep away their journeys.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed with any form of sleep apnea and have questions about some of the terms and features used in this article, please feel free to take a look at our FAQ and buyers guide for more information about CPAP machines and their various characteristics.
Human Design Medical has produced several excellent machines in recent years, and the Z2 travel is no exception, being one of the smallest and lightest travel CPAP machines available.
With a decibel rating of 26, it is also one of the quietest machines available which makes it perfect for light sleepers or those who are easily disturbed. It is also one of the lightest machines weighing just 10.4 oz and measuring 6.48”x 3.3”x 2”.
Despite its small size the Z2 packs in a host of features designed to ensure your sleep is as restful as possible. Featuring auto altitude adjustment up to 8000 feet, leak compensation, ramping, and a built-in humidifier, the Z2 is a great choice for any traveler needing a compact and quality CPAP machine.
As with most travel-oriented CPAP machines, the Z2 comes with an FAA approval so it's certified for safe use during air travel. It is also capable of using Bluetooth to connect to the NightLog app on your phone, giving added insight into your sleep and any events that have occurred after each use.
The APEX Medical XT Auto offers great performance and value to travelers who need all the features modern CPAP machines provide without sacrificing too much space in their luggage.
Measuring just 5.7”x5.1”x3.9” and weighing 1.76lbs, the APEX is compact and manageable in size, however, there are a few smaller and lighter machines out there.
The APEX Medical does come with a few excellent features that help it to stand out, however, including a super quiet 28 decibel sound rating and a clear LCD display to aid in easy use and setup.
The pressure variation algorithm (PVA) and ramp feature allow for comfortable use, even for users who are still getting used to CPAP machines and find their prescribed air pressure uncomfortable.
The power supply for this machine is also built into the main body to ease the burden of carrying a cumbersome and heavy power brick and cable, making usage very easy on the go.
Just be aware that this CPAP doesn’t come with an auto start/stop system, and the humidifier must be purchased as an additional extra if you suffer from dryness in your mouth during therapy.
The Philips Respironics DreamStation is one of the most compact and well-designed CPAP machines available, thanks to its sleek profile and clear display. It also comes packed with features that make it a great choice for frequent fliers who need a discreet package and excellent performance.
The DreamStation Go has all the essentials you need to make your sleep as comfortable and safe as possible, including leak compensation, ramping as well as Bluetooth connectivity and automatic altitude adjustment up to 7500 meters.
The optional overnight battery also allows for a total of 10 hours of therapy on the go, perfect for long flights or nights away from the power grid.
All of these make the DreamStation Go a feature-rich machine, in a package just 5.9”x5.9”x2.3” and weighing only 1.9lbs. It also has a noise level of 30.7dBA which is very quiet, however, there are machines in this list with quieter decibel ratings if you want something even quieter.
One of the drawbacks of this machine is that the humidifier is not included. It can be purchased as an optional extra, but if you suffer from dryness in your mouth and throat you may prefer one of the other machines on our list that comes with a humidifier as standard.
The Transcend 365 miniCPAP is another great machine for travelers on the go, coming with FAA approval, a three-year warranty, and a long list of features in a highly portable package.
The Transcend 365 is one of the lightest and smallest CPAP machines, measuring just 7.8”x3.8”x4.5” and weighing 1.7lbs. The built-in humidifier means you don’t need to worry about discomfort and dryness while you’re traveling.
The leak compensation feature will also give you peace of mind as you sleep, allowing you to rest without worrying about pressure drops if the fit of your mask changes during therapy.
With a decibel rating of 30dBA, it isn’t the quietest machine on this list but is still extremely quiet, which will help light sleepers to relax and remain undisturbed.
The ResMed AirMini is one of the most popular and compact travel-orientated CPAP machines available, comparable in size to the latest smartphones.
Measuring just 5.4”x3.3”x2.1” and weighing a featherweight 10.6 ounces, the ResMed is by far one of the most portable and easy to store CPAP machines available.
While its size is compact, the feature list certainly isn’t. This machine has automatic pressure adjustment up to 8500 feet, the highest altitude of any machine on this list, and is FAA approved meaning you won’t have to worry about using this machine on any US flight.
The decibel rating of 30 is very quiet, and while quieter machines exist, 30 dBA is still quiet enough to leave most sleepers totally undisturbed.
The ramp feature will also help you fall asleep comfortably, building up pressure slowly over a user-selected period of time. This feature works really well for users who are still getting used to therapy or who have difficulty with their prescribed pressure.
Bluetooth connectivity is included to connect you to the AirMini Monitoring app which has a nice user interface and provides details about your sleep and therapy. This is an essential feature, as this machine doesn’t come with a display for setup or monitoring.
Another small drawback is that this machine doesn’t come with a humidifier built-in. If you do use a humidifier, you will need to purchase it as an optional extra and this will of course affect the excellent size and portability of the machine slightly.
Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with sleep apnea or are in the market for a smaller, more convenient CPAP machine, there is a lot to know about the features these machines use and as the technology continues to improve.
There are always new features being added and developed with ever more unique and complicated labels and acronyms.
In this buyers guide, we’re going to highlight some important features that CPAP machines provide, as well as an FAQ to answer some common questions that get asked.
CPAP machines come with a decibel rating to help lighter sleepers find the quietest possible machine. Generally, a quieter machine is best because it will disturb you and other nearby passengers/travelers less. However, if you are a deep sleeper and used to the sound of a CPAP machine, this may not be such an important feature for you as some others.
When it comes to travel-friendly CPAP machines, portability is everything. The lighter the machine, the easier it is to pack and carry around, making life far easier when traveling.
A lot of CPAP machines designed for traveling are lightweight, however, some can become a bit heavier if you decide to add a battery or additional accessories such as an optional humidifier.
The addition of these accessories may affect portability and weight slightly, but they will still be very convenient and designed specifically for use with the machine you decide to use.
A clear and well-designed display will make using your CPAP machine as painless as possible and help you to easily set it up and alter things while you’re trying to settle into a restful state of mind.
There’s nothing worse than trying to get to sleep but being thwarted by a confusing interface. This is doubly important to consider if you’re new to using CPAP machines, as it can take some time to become accustomed to its functionality, as well as find settings that are comfortable for you.
Portability/DC Battery Compatibility
Always check that your CPAP machine is battery compatible, as there are some designs that aren’t.
Being able to use a CPAP without needing to use an outlet is a great quality of life improvement for traveling, and batteries are so advanced nowadays that they can often last for the duration of an entire flight (depending on the route).
Just be sure to check whether your machine comes with a battery or not, as some are available separately.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does CPAP mean?
CPAP means Continuous positive airway pressure. This is the therapy used to treat various forms of sleep apnea.
CPAP machines do this by ensuring there is adequate airflow during respiration, helping the user’s airway to remain open and their breathing to remain uninterrupted during sleep.
What are the side effects of using a CPAP machine?
There are a few side effects to using a CPAP machine, however, they may not all affect every CPAP user.
Some of these side effects include; a dry nose/throat, sneezing and congestion, irritation, and abdominal bloating which can occur if the pressure is too high and air manages to enter the stomach. Nosebleeds are a rare occurrence but have been known to happen.
What is the ramp feature?
The ramp feature allows CPAP users to set up their machine to slowly and gradually increase the air pressure over a set period of time. The amount of time varies depending on the machine, as do the increments you can set.
This feature is an excellent way to help new CPAP users become accustomed to the feeling of CPAP therapy.
Does CPAP stop snoring?
In a lot of cases, CPAP can prevent snoring, however, this may not always work. Snoring may or may not be an indicator of sleep apnea, and there is a range of factors your physician will need to consider before diagnosing you with the condition.
If you are someone that snores, however, we do recommend you make sure you aren’t suffering from sleep apnea, as it is a serious condition that can have tragic consequences for those affected by it.
What is a Humidifier?
A humidifier raises the moisture content of the air a CPAP machine provides to its user. This moisture can greatly improve the comfort of anyone suffering from a dry mouth or throat, which are common side effects of CPAP therapy.
There are a few different types of infusers.
Built-in humidifiers are exactly that, enclosed within the main design of the machine, making them impossible to remove without damaging the machine.
Heated humidifiers use heat to warm up the water that is mixed with the filtered air, adding a little extra comfort for users and increasing the efficiency of the humidification process.
Integrated humidifiers are slightly different from built-in humidifiers. These integrated designs are sometimes sold separately and are often of a proprietary nature, connecting to a specific brand or style of CPAP machine.
Finally, there is the waterless humidifier which works by using the natural water vapor you exhale with each breath to help moisten the air for your next breath. This has the benefit of not requiring refilling or running out during prolonged usage.
Damon Wiseley is a Registered Respiratory Therapist and Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist.