Types of CPAP Masks: How and Which One to Choose?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common sleep-related breathing disorder characterized by repetitive episodes of absent or reduced inspiratory airflow during sleep hours. It affects more than a billion people around the globe, and one of the best options to treat it is using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.
These machines prevent respiratory collapse events by sending a higher air pressure through the entire airway, ensuring a restful night. They need to be kept on throughout the night, so it's important that you choose a comfortable CPAP mask.
Getting the perfect fitting CPAP mask is not always easy. In this article, we will guide you so you can choose the one that works best for you.
How to Choose a CPAP Mask
When beginning CPAP therapy, selecting the right mask is, without any doubt, the most important step. If your mask isn’t comfortable enough, you’re more likely to abandon your treatment.
But, what is a CPAP mask? It is the crucial component of a CPAP Therapy that delivers air from the CPAP machine to your nose and mouth through a tubbing system that promotes a steady and consistent air pressure flow. The mask is also in charge of maintaining a proper seal to avoid leaks that can interrupt your treatment.
These masks are designed to be in close contact with your face, ensuring maximum comfort while creating a complete seal around your nose, or both your nose and mouth. It's essential for the mask to fit snugly without causing any discomfort, leaving marks, or irritating your skin.
Let us provide you with a helpful introduction on how to navigate and select from the various available mask styles to finally find the best CPAP mask tailored to your specific needs.
First, take your time while evaluating your options and keep in mind that finding your ideal mask may take some time. All mask options have the same basic components: mask frame, headgear, and cushion, but there are a few differences that you should be aware of before getting one. We will mention those soon.
You'll quickly realize the overwhelming amount of different types of CPAP machines and mask designs available in the market, but your doctor can help to select one that is suitable for your diagnosis and needs.
Some factors you should consider before buying a CPAP Mask:
- • Your usual sleeping position
- • Mouth breathing
- • If you suffer from claustrophobia
- • Your bedtime routine (reading, watching TV, if you wear glasses)
- • Facial hair
- • Allergies to some materials, like silicone
- • Nasal congestion.
Types of CPAP Masks
Even if there are hundreds of options, there are only three different types of CPAP masks. Those are:
Nasal Pillow CPAP Mask
Also called nasal cushion masks, this type of mask occupies a very small surface area compared with other models, and it’s also the least invasive mask in the market.
A nasal pillow mask seals just below the nose and has two silicone pillows or cushions that are inserted into the nostrils, delivering air pressure directly into the nasal passage, such as the ResMed AirFit P10 and Brevida Nasal Pillow, the best options offered by Sleeplay.
It provides a clear field of vision.
Nasal pillows are considered the best options for some people, including:
- • People who only breathe through their nose.
- • People who have beards, or other types of facial hair.
- • People who are back, stomach or side sleepers and those who toss and turn in their sleep without getting snagged by sheets and bedding (active sleepers).
- • People who enjoy doing leisure activities in bed such as reading or watching TV.
- • People who experience claustrophobia.
- • People who want something easy to take on and off.
However, if your prescription has a high-pressure setting or you suffer from nasal allergies, this probably won't be the best type of mask for you. Also, some people do not like the feeling of the cushion sitting inside their noses, and this mask’s direct airflow may also dry out a user’s nasal passage more quickly than other masks.
Nasal masks fit only over your nose. They are triangular or oval shaped, usually covering from the bridge of your nose to your upper lip. They are commonly held in place by a headgear that attaches to the frame.
The AirFit N20 and N30, which feature a soft, under-the-nose nasal cradle cushion, are ideal for side sleepers or those who feel claustrophobic with full face masks. Some nasal masks, such as the DreamWear Nasal CPAP Mask, work by directing airflow through the frame. It offers the benefits of pillows masks but without inserting anything inside the nose.
Nasal masks provide a comfortable, less direct delivery of pressure and are generally more accepted by users that need a higher pressure setting. On the other hand, they can irritate the bridge of the nose and cause discomfort for those who have frequent allergies and sinus infections.
Compared to other types of CPAP masks, nasal masks offer several advantages, including:
- • They have fewer facial touch points than a full face mask, but do not deliver pressurized air directly into the nostrils the way a nasal pillow mask does.
- • They’re generally more comfortable.
- • Fewer air leak issues
- • They work for active, side, and back sleepers, and sometimes even for stomach sleepers, without getting snagged by sheets and bedding.
- • Lower pressure required from the CPAP machine.
- • Longer periods of use
- • Less costly.
Full Face Mask
Full face masks cover your nose and mouth with cushions typically in the shape of a triangle, and are held in place by a headgear. These masks are an excellent option for mouth breathers, those who find the nasal cushion irritating, or those who haven't found success with a nasal mask.
The design of the full face mask can be hard to adjust, especially for beginners, because it is bulkier and heavier than other types of masks. However, full face masks have come a long way. Masks like the Comfortable Fit Deluxe, the Fisher & Paykel Evora and the ResMed AirTouch F20 now offer a much wider field of vision and new memory foam cushion technology for greater comfort..
Other full face masks allow a greater range of movement so users can switch sleeping positions comfortably during the night and even sleep closer to their bed partner. The Philips Respironics DreamWear™ Full Face Mask features a top-of-the-head hose connection that provides freedom of movement and less intrusion during the night, making it ideal for stomach sleepers.
Full face masks are also a favorite amongst allergy and sinus sufferers, who have a harder time breathing through the nose.
Some benefits of Full Face Mask are:
- • Mouth breathers can use it without side effects like dry mouth and without having to use a chin strap.
- • It can handle high pressure settings without discomfort.
- • They are generally effective for people who have nasal congestion, allergies, or a deviated septum.
If you use a full face mask and find it too invasive, you can try a nasal mask or a nasal pillow mask and consider using a chin strap to eliminate mouth breathing.
Common CPAP Mask Problems
Even if CPAP is the fastest and most effective sleep apnea treatment, it can cause small issues if you don't choose the right mask. These common problems are:
The mask does not seal/fit properly it:
In this case, the mask can lose the high positive pressure needed for the CPAP machine to be effective. Having a good seal could be the most important part when you get one, so you need to find a mask that adapts better to your face.
Dry mouth and nose:
This can be fixed by using a CPAP machine that includes a humidifier. This is a chamber filled with water that may be located within the CPAP device or as a separate component that can be attached to it.
As air from the CPAP machine passes through the humidifier, it obtains moisture from the water in the chamber, which travels through the CPAP tubing and mask to the upper airway. This reduces the dryness and irritation in the nasal passages and throat that continuous airflow can cause.
Wearing a CPAP mask that covers your nose or nose and mouth could cause a fear of suffocation, specially with the full face masks—in these cases you should avoid this type mask and start using the nasal one. If you suffer from allergies, nasal congestion, or you breathe through your mouth most of the time, you could use the oral mask to avoid these episodes.
The seal of the mask doesn’t have to hurt you or cause skin redness. If this is the case, try getting one a bit more loose.
CPAP Mask Features
Starting CPAP therapy can be confusing, and many questions and concerns may arise. The main thing is to find mask styles that fit you well and maintain constant communication with your doctor to make all the necessary adjustments.
Let’s look at a summary of the differences between the types of masks:
Full Face Mask
Nasal Pillow Mask
Mouth and nose
Entire nose, from the bridge to the upper lip
Not the best
Best option for back sleepers
Best option for stomach and side sleepers
Best option for side sleepers
How to Optimize the Use of CPAP Masks
Once you have your CPAP machine, it is important that you follow the these recommendations to get the desired effect:
Choose a CPAP Mask that Fits Your Lifestyle
As we mentioned earlier, it's essential to take your time and evaluate what mask options cater to your specific needs. A style and size of mask that’s right for someone else’s face shape and lifestyle may not work for you. The CPAP industry has expanded its product lines to accommodate everything from slimmer facial features, to facial hair and mouth breathing.
Fit is everything when it comes to masks. Sizing guides can help you find the perfect fit for comfort and proper mask seal. In Sleeplay we have the best mask models for you.
Try wearing Your CPAP Mask Every Night
The only way to see the results is by using the CPAP machine exactly as your doctor says, usually during the entire night. Remember that this machine will avoid your airway collapse and all the possible consequences.
You can keep it next to your bed to avoid forgetting, at least until you get used to wearing it.
Clean Your CPAP Mask Regularly
Frequent cleaning will keep your mask sanitary and functioning properly. We encourage you to clean your CPAP mask weekly using warm water and a mild detergent—avoid using stronger cleaning products as they may damage the mask or leave harmful residue.
To clean your cpap mask, follow these steps:
- 1. Unplug your CPAP machine from the power source.
- 2. Disassemble your mask into three parts: the headgear, the cushion and the frame. You can generally disconnect the tubing from the rest of the mask, but this will depend on the type of mask you´re using.
- 3. Fill your bathroom sink with warm water and a few drops of mild detergent.
- 4. Submerge the tubing, mask cushion, and headgear into it. Gently rub with soap and warm, drinking-quality water for five minutes.
- 5. Rinse the parts well with freshwater and place the cushion and frame on a flat surface, on top of a towel, to dry. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight.
- 6. Make sure the pieces are thoroughly dried before reassembling the mask and connecting it to your CPAP machine.
Choose the right fit for your CPAP Mask
Your medical equipment provider or sleep physician should help you fit your mask properly when you start your CPAP therapy treatment.
There isn’t any specific standard for the sizing of CPAP masks, since sizing varies among all models. You can usually find Petite, Small, Medium-Small, Medium-Wide, Medium, and Large sizes for the nasal CPAP masks.
As for the full face masks, people usually only mention Small, Medium, and Large. This varies among the different brands, some only sell a standard size. That is why we recommend trying each model before buying until to find your right cpap mask.
A mask that is the right size for you should feel as loose as possible while still creating a seal.
Use a High-quality CPAP Machine
Most CPAP machines on the market today are fairly advanced. In Sleeplay we have a variety of good options that can give you the best possible experience.
Benefits of Using a CPAP Machine
• A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is the most commonly prescribed device for treating sleep apnea disorders.
This machine takes in room air, then filters and pressurizes it before delivering it through a tube and into your mask. The continuous flow of air gently keeps your tongue, uvula and soft palate from shifting too far into your airway.
• It’s important to clarify that the CPAP machine doesn't breathe for you.
You can breathe in and out normally on your own, it only stabilizes your breathing and improves your overall sleep quality. As we mentioned it provides air at a pressure just high enough to prevent the collapse of your entire airway, basically it keeps your airways open while you sleep so you can receive the oxygen you need for optimal function.
• Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has been linked to various cardiovascular, metabolic and renal complications due to its hypoxic (low oxygen) effect in different tissues.
That is why it is so important to recognize if you suffer from this disease to receive the best treatment, which is usually using a CPAP machine to avoid all these problems in the long term.
• Avoid using outdated machines.
If they are previously used they probably won't last longer than four years, which will become more expensive in the end. Old CPAP machines can be quite noisy during the night, and they usually lack the humidifier feature, so you won’t be able to avoid the possible dry mouth and nose side effect.
Talk to Your Doctor or Sleep Specialist
Last but not least, remember that the most important thing to consider when choosing a CPAP mask is your doctor’s recommendations. Your doctor has an expert’s understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of masks and which style will most likely work for you.
Don’t hesitate to ask your physician if you have any doubts about your treatment. They are there specifically to help you through this process.
Join the conversation!, login and comment.
Get your guide to understanding sleep apnea, adjusting to CPAP machines, and choosing the right masks for your needs.