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CPAP Mask Types for Different Sleep Positions

Oct 19, 2020
· 13 mins read


When a person prepares for bed, the body automatically adjusts to a position they feel most comfortable with currently. As the night passes, one turns and tosses in their sleep as their body adapts to various sleeping positions

However, could it be better to sleep in one position over the other? According to doctors, there is a difference in the impact on your health due to sleeping positions. The impact could be negative or positive, depending on your age and the kind of medical condition you are dealing with.

This is why for sleep apnea patients, a CPAP mask for stomach sleepers exists. For some sleepers, sleeping on their stomach is better, and the CPAP masks are adjusted to that need.

Another example would be how if one sleeps on their back with their face jutted slightly upwards, the neck pain can worsen. On the other hand, whatever pain you have been experiencing in your lower back might lessen a little. Someone suffering from heartburn shouldn’t sleep on their right side. Meanwhile,  people with a skin condition are better off sleeping on their backs. This is because sleeping on their stomach can have the part of their skin that’s allergic to deal with the friction from the bed-sheets. 

For a person with obstructive sleep apnea, either sleeping on their stomach or their side is recommended. It can decrease the snoring problem. For someone going through CPAP treatment due to sleep apnea, certain CPAP masks are more suitable for particular sleeping positions over others.

Figuring out what your sleeping position should be if you are on CPAP therapy is, thus, quite important.

Let’s see if you are a CPAP stomach sleeper or someone more comfortable on their back. Other than that, let’s also take a look at the different types of masks.

This will give you a better idea of why masks suit certain sleepers over others.

So, we will learn:

  • The Types Of Masks A CPAP Patient Can Use
  • Masks You Need For Sleeping On Your Stomach
  • Masks You Need For Sleeping On Your Side
  • Masks You Need For Sleeping On Your Back


The Types Of Masks A CPAP Patient Can Use

According to studies, getting a good six hours of CPAP therapy or more can help improve patients' memory and their health. Yet, a lot of patients feel uncomfortable with their masks.

This is because they are not using the right mask and don’t feel comfortable while wearing it. So, let’s learn about the masks and what differs between them. This will help make you more informed decisions.


CPAP Nasal Mask

Nasal CPAP Mask


This CPAP mask spans from the bridge of the patient's nose and extends right about their upper lip. The CPAP air flows indirectly into your nose with the nasal mask.

It is the best CPAP mask when it comes to patients who need higher air pressure for CPAP therapy to work.

The nasal CPAP mask type comes with lots of options. It is a compromise of sorts. It is a hybrid of the existing nasal pillow mask and the full face mask. The nasal pillow mask can be too light while the full face mask can be too heavy, so this one is ideal for restless sleepers. 

Usually, a doctor recommends a nasal mask to patients who move around a lot when they are sleeping.

They also recommend it to patients who need high air pressure for therapy. Patients who don’t want to feel as if they’re wearing a mask on their face also prefer this.

Now, these masks come with some pros and cons.


For one, the airflow is much more natural with this one. It is also supplied to you indirectly. So, your movements are far less restricted.

Two, compared to nasal pillow masks, they work better if the patient has to use a higher pressure setting.

Three, the designs can be far more accommodating. No matter the face structure of the patient, it is possible to find a nasal mask that fits snug.

Fourth, and the main advantage, it’s the perfect choice for someone who fidgets a lot in their sleep. It is also good if you usually sleep on your side. So, it’s the right kind of CPAP mask for side sleepers.



As with most wonderful things, everything has a downside. Nasal masks have their fair share too.

One, for patients who breathe with their mouth open, they are not a good choice. There is no part of the mask that touches the chin area of the patient. There is simply no resistance. So, if you are using a nasal mask, pair it with a chin strap.

There are also cases of patients getting irritated because of the pressure on the bridge of the nose.

Two, a patient suffering from a cold or allergy might find the mask hard to work with. Their sinus could be blocked, which makes it hard to deliver air pressure.

Nasal masks also won’t be the first recommendation in case your patient finds it hard to breathe with their nose. Say, they have a snoring problem due to a deviated septum. Nasal masks don’t provide the proper therapy in that case.


CPAP Nasal Pillow Mask

Nasal Pillow CPAP Mask


This is an extremely lightweight mask. The complete opposite of a full face mask. It is light as it is small in size. It covers a smaller facial area as well.

The patients don’t even feel the mask on their face at some points, thanks to the minimal contact between the mask and the skin.

In this case, the air is provided directly through the nostrils. This is also why the air pressure setting for the patient has to be low or moderate. It is never a good idea to have high air pressure hitting your nostrils directly. That is how you end up with a dry and eventually bleeding nose. Though, a humidifier can fix that.

Nasal pillow masks are for patients who toss and turn a lot while sleeping. It fits snug and is soft so it is hard to displace it.

It is also for those who feel particularly claustrophobic with something huge or heavy on their face. This mask is for people who don’t want their movements to be restricted due to a mask.

Nasal pillow masks also suit people who can breathe properly with their nose. This mask is also ideal for people who have a lot of hair in their nostrils. Compared to a nasal mask that provides indirect air, the air can get restricted due to the hair. That won’t happen with a nasal pillow mask.

Again, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this mask.


Do you like to read or watch tv before you go to sleep? Well, with a full face mask or nasal mask you can’t do that. A nasal pillow mask though is perfect. It doesn’t block your vision in any way.

This mask is also ideal for people who wear glasses. The nasal pillow mask doesn’t go over your nose. it only covers the part under it. As the bridge of your nose is free, you can wear keep your glasses and the mask on without any hassles

As we mentioned, claustrophobic patients particularly feel comfortable in these masks. Neither does it cover a huge part, nor is it too heavy on the face.

It is also important to not that air leaks are less likely to happen with nasal pillow masks. It is directly linked to your nose, so, there isn’t much space for the air to leak. Patients with a beard or mustache also find it to be comfortable.



Well, there is one main disadvantage of nasal pillow masks.

Someone who needs high air pressure can’t use them. The CPAP air goes directly into your nostrils. This can get uncomfortable quite fast on high pressure. Mostly, your nose could get really dry. Or, you could be experiencing nosebleeds frequently. A humidifier with the CPAP machine can fix some of the problems though.

If your patient is a mouth breather, that is, their mouth falls open at night, nasal pillow masks aren’t ideal. Then again, chinstraps exist and are a quick fix to this problem. So, one could use it to keep the mouth shut through the night.


CPAP Full-face Masks

Full Face CPAP Mask


The CPAP full-face masks cover a little more than just the nose. The nasal mask and nasal pillow masks were mainly for the nose, as the name already suggested. The full-face mask covers the mouth and the nose.

A good portion of your face is covered with this mask. Thus, CPAP therapy is done through both the airways.

This also means the mask is quite bulky, which can be uncomfortable for the patient. Yet, for patients who breathe through their mouth or need CPAP therapy to be on high positive airway pressure, this is the perfect solution.

Mostly, full-face masks are for patients who breathe through their mouths, and for patients who need higher pressure. If they find it hard to breathe through their nose, then this mask is perfect for them.

Mostly, full-face masks are good for people who sleep on their backs.


The full-face mask is for patients who have a tendency to breathe through their mouth a lot. This could be because they catch a cold often or suffer from allergies.

Oddly enough, even a lot of claustrophobic patients love the full face mask. This is because the mask merely covers the exterior portion of the face. There is no direct contact with the inside of the nose. Some people might find the direct connection of the air to their nose to be more uncomfortable than having a heavier mask all over their face.

Sleeping on your back goes well with this mask, which we will discuss further in a later section.

Mostly, patients who need high-pressure settings can use it because the airflow is evenly distributed.




Air leaks are more frequent with this one. It covers a lot, so, more is likely to leak. Patients can end up with dry eyes. There is also a possibility of the air flowing into their air eyes due to a leak.

The mask is quite heavy. For patients who like sleeping on their side or stomach, this is in no way ideal. The mask also doesn’t let a patient wear glasses; they can’t read or watch anything with the mask on.

Masks You Need For Sleeping On Your Stomach

Nasal pillow masks are usually suitable for stomach sleepers. It has to have fewer touchpoints. The hose connection also has to be from the top of the head rather than line up directly to the middle of the nose area.

On top of that, we pair it with a CPAP pillow to make the experience comfortable on every level. What’s the difference between a CPAP pillow and a regular one, you ask? Well, there are tiny openings on it that allows the mask and the hose to sink into it.

So, even when you bury your face into the pillow, it doesn’t displace the mask or the hose.

If you are someone whose mouth falls open while sleeping on your stomach, a chinstrap should be paired with the nasal pillow or nasal mask. However, it depends on which one you choose. It could be that you use both, that is, you wear a nasal mask and use a nasal pillow. You might find this combination the most comfortable to wear.

Of the general public, about 5 to percent tend to sleep on their stomach. Most of them have a habit of holding on to their pillow while sleeping. Even though sleeping on one’s stomach isn’t the most common, medical professionals haven’t failed to take into account how the CPAP for stomach sleeper therapy should look like. As such, masks are made solely for this purpose.

Mainly, there is the nasal pillow mask. The nature of the mask is that it balloons up a little. The design is also simple to keep it comfortable. Combine it with a good pillow for CPAP patients - a suitable position can be reached.

For the stomach sleepers, the gel nasal pillow mask always seems to work.


Masks You Need For Sleeping On Your Side

Sleeping On Side


For side sleepers, nasal CPAP masks and nasal pillows are heavily recommended. This allows you to move more freely. The touchpoints are also way less than is the case with a nasal mask.

Nasal masks cover only a small part of the face. As the area it covers is small, it also moves less when you shift. It is easier to make sure the mask stays fitted snugly against your face.

If you are sleeping on your side and your mouth has a habit of falling open at night, a chinstrap would do you good. You can get a chinstrap that will keep your mouth closed as you shift.

The most important thing here is getting the CPAP air into you without obstruction. Sleeping on your side, however, can change the air pressure a bit. There is some resistance in getting the air properly to your system.

Other than getting a good mask, what else should you do? For one, talk to your healthcare provider and discuss the air pressure to see if there is a setting more suitable for you. Secondly, on the CPAP machine, there is a ramp-up setting that adjusts the air pressure level. It takes notes of what the body needs and matches the pressure level to it.

Now, on to the mask. Let’s take a look at some of the side positions.

The Fetal Position

Most people tend to curl up when they sleep on their side. Their one hand is usually under them while the other is over them. And they tend to pull their knees to their chest. Pretty similar to how a fetus sleeps, which is where the name comes from.

For these kinds of people, a flexible mask is a must.  The perfect CPAP mask for CPAP users who sleep on their side would be nasal masks. This is a different mask since it has to go under the nose instead of over it. One with a cloth surface is preferable. It is even better if the buckles are soft to the touch.

As far as fetal position is concerned, CPAP nasal masks with a soft surface are the best.


The Log Position

In the log position, a person tends to sleep straight on their side. Both of their arms stay straight and aligned with the body.

A lot like the people who sleep in the fetal position as we have already seen in the previous section, the answer for the log position is soft CPAP masks. The pressure of the pillow shouldn’t make the mask slide off.

This sleep position actually increases the pressure on the sides of your face. Your arms are no longer balancing your head by being near it. Instead, your arms are aligned straight to the side of your body. Your arms don’t act as a barrier between you and the pillow anymore. Now, the side of your face is squished into the pillow.

This calls for a soft nasal mask or memory foam gel pillow. One that will not come loose during your sleep. Nor will it irritate the side of your face or give you red marks because of the material.

Log position sleepers work best with soft nasal masks.


The Yearner Position


 Again, being on your side is a given. So, what’s different about this position?

Well, your arms are straight in front of your body, reaching out. It’s not curled up towards you or lying by your side.

This can cause some pressure on the side of your face. At the same time, the pressure is less than it is while sleeping with arms straight by your side style.

So, a special mask is not needed. In this case, the mask that worked for fetal or log is suitable.

So, a nice nasal mask works just fine here.

Masks You Need For Sleeping On Your Back


People who tend to sleep on their backs are the lucky ones. They can have their pick of any and all CPAP masks available.

You will be just as happy with a nasal mask, nasal pillow mask, or a full face mask. The sleeping position does not really require any extra care unless you have other conditions.

Another thing you should probably think about when it comes to CPAP masks is the ease of use. Can you take it off easily during the night if you need to use the bathroom? Can you put it on at night without any problem? Are there other ways you can increase your comfort level with the mask?

The Soldier Position

Here, you are on your back - as the name would suggest, you do sleep like a soldier. Your arms are by your side. As if your legs, completely still and straightened out.

For a back sleeper, your worry is the back of your head. You want a mask that won’t poke into the back of your head. You wouldn’t want straps, buckles, hoses, anything making your night uncomfortable. You won’t get any sleep that way.

Particularly, this Fisher & Paykel full face CPAP mask seems good for a soldier style sleeper.


The Starfish Position



The starfish position happens to be a rare one. In twenty people, only one person ends up sleeping like this.

Obviously, you are lying on your back. But now, your arms are by the side of your head, bend upward. Your legs are also slightly bent, though that does not necessarily matter.

Again, as someone sleeping in the starfish position, you can use any mask that back sleepers use. Except, you have to keep one minor detail in mind.

Starfish sleepers move their hands around a lot. You would know if you fall into the category. So, the mask has to be as simple as possible.

This way, while you are flailing your arms around in your sleep, you won’t end up looping it around any parts of the CPAP mask. So, the more simple it is, the better. 

Otherwise, you can opt for a full mask or nasal mask, whichever you prefer. A nasal mask would be better though, as it comes with even fewer extra parts.

This Philips Respironics Dreamwear nasal CPAP mask might be perfect in this case.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, your sleeping position actually affects the CPAP mask you use a lot. So, it’s good to read up on it and discuss it with your doctor as to which mask would be better for you.

Additionally, make it a point to keep your CPAP equipment clean. Wash your mask and the mask cushion on a daily basis. The CPAP hose should be cleaned weekly. If some parts don’t work as well as they used to, don’t hesitate to replace it.

Oil and dirt can’t build up if you clean the CPAP parts. Replacing the unfit items would ensure you are getting the best out of CPAP therapy.

Also, maintain a good sleeping schedule. If you are consistent about the time you go to sleep, it will inform your body on how to behave from thereon.


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