If you or someone you love suffers from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), arguably the most important part of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy is the mask you choose. Since the CPAP mask is the interface between you and your CPAP machine, it needs to be as comfortable as possible, keep an effective seal to your nose or mouth, and be easy to care for.
There are many factors involved in ensuring the CPAP mask fits well. For instance, the size and shape of the patient’s face, the diet and lifestyle of the patient (and if they are currently losing weight), and the bone structure of the face. What is the patient’s preferred sleeping position? Does the patient have a beard or other facial hair? Any issues with nosebleeds? Deviated septum? These are just a few examples of factors that must be considered.
In addition to these factors, there are so many products on the market today and it can be confusing to sort through them all to find the best CPAP mask for you. This is especially true if you are newly diagnosed with sleep apnea, and this is your first foray into the world of CPAP therapy. Don’t worry, the right CPAP mask for you is out there, read on to find out how to find it.
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3 Main CPAP Mask Styles
Though there are dozens of different combinations of masks and accessories that can meet the needs of individual sleep apnea patients, there are three main mask styles. Most of them have the same basic components: mask frame, headgear, and mask cushion. Let’s explore each of the three main types individually.
Full Face CPAP Mask
We’ll begin with the type of mask with the most surface area, the full face mask. Unlike the other two styles, it is designed to cover both the nose and mouth, from the bridge of the nose to just under the lower lip. It is held in place with a headgear.
While some CPAP users have found the bulk of a full face mask causes claustrophobia, some others find it feels more comfortable. You can breathe through your mouth, or sleep with your mouth open, without the risk of dry mouth. Additionally, newer styles are slimmer than traditional face masks and allow for a clear field of vision.
You may benefit from a full face CPAP mask if you:
- Require higher air pressure settings
- Have frequent nasal congestion, allergies, deviated septum, or other sinus obstruction
- Are a mouth breather
- Are a back sleeper
- Sleep with an open mouth and can't use a chin strap
Back sleepers and some side sleepers can wear a full face mask without having to worry about pillows and bedding interfering with the mask's seal.
If you have facial hair, you may have difficulty getting a good seal with a full face mask. That leads us into the next two options, which are smaller, more compact designs with less contact area.
Nasal CPAP Mask
A nasal mask rests on the bridge of the nose and seals just under it. Nasal masks are popular with people who find a full face mask causes claustrophobia, but who don’t like the feeling of direct airflow to the nostrils that a nasal pillow mask delivers.
If you find yourself mouth breathing during the night, adding an inexpensive chin strap to keep your mouth closed could be just what you need to make a nasal mask work for you.
You may benefit from a nasal CPAP mask if you:
- Breathe only through your nose, or can comfortably use a chin strap if you find yourself mouth breathing
- Are a back or side sleeper
- Don't like the more direct pressure that a nasal pillow mask provides
- Don't frequently experience nasal congestion
Nasal masks can be challenging for some people who find they can cause red marks where they rest on the bridge of the nose. But testing out different sizes (fyi we have fit packs available, just for this purpose!) and adjusting the headgear can help.
They may not work well for people who struggle to breathe through the nose, need higher pressures, have frequent nasal congestion, deviated septum, or injuries that cause obstruction in the nasal passages.
Nasal Pillow CPAP Mask
Let’s finish up with the small but mighty nasal pillow CPAP mask, also called a nasal cushion mask. This mask has the smallest surface area and is popular with people who prefer a lightweight mask with minimal contact.
The mask rests on the upper lip and has two silicone pillows or cushions that are inserted into the nostrils, delivering air pressure directly into the nasal passages.
This type of sleep apnea mask minimizes the chance for air leaks, since the seal occurs at the nose, not spread out over a larger area.
You may benefit from a nasal pillow CPAP mask if you:
- Tend to toss and turn in your sleep
- Are a stomach or side sleeper
- Breathe only through your nose or don’t mind a chin strap
- Don't experience nasal congestion very often
- Have a beard or other facial hair
- Find that other masks make you claustrophobic
If you need high pressure, experience allergies or sinus blockages frequently, or find yourself breathing your mouth at night, you may consider a full face mask instead.
We've covered the three most common types of CPAP masks, but there are other masks available for special considerations as well.
An oral CPAP mask is one that delivers airflow only to the mouth, not the nose. An oral mask can be helpful for people who have difficulty breathing through their nose due to congestion or blockage.
A total face CPAP mask is just what it sounds like, a mask that seals around the perimeter of the whole face; nose, eyes, and mouth. While it takes up the most surface area, it can actually decrease feelings of claustrophobia for people who don't like targeted air pressure to their nose or mouth. It's a good option for people with certain facial features that have a hard time finding a good fit with other masks.
A hybrid CPAP mask is basically a combination of a full face mask and a nasal pillow mask; it covers the mouth but seals under the nose and has the same type of pillows that are inserted into the nostrils. This type of mask is great for those who may breathe through the mouth, but don't like chin straps and prefer to have the bridge of their nose clear.
Finally, a nasal prong CPAP mask is similar to a nasal pillow mask, with two prongs that are inserted into the nostrils and inflated to create a secure seal. They are inserted a bit deeper than nasal pillows, but are similarly lightweight with a slim profile. They are not suitable for someone who requires high pressure.
Helpful Tips for Finding the Right Fit
The best way to find the right mask is to order a fit pack, which includes multiple sizes so you can really get a feel for the way each will conform to your unique features. Be sure to try wearing the mask while sitting straight up, lying down on your back and sides (or any positions you would normally sleep in). You want to make sure the mask you choose will be comfortable enough to stay on your face during sleep.
If you wake up and find your mask on the floor or off to the side (and not on your face) when you awake, then it is probably safe to say that mask is not comfortable enough. The more comfortable the mask is, the more likely you will keep it on your face. The longer you keep it on, the more effective your sleep therapy.
We understand it can be hard to find the right CPAP mask. That’s why CPAPSupplies.com offers a 30-Day Mask Guarantee on select CPAP masks. Our team is dedicated to providing the best customer service possible. If you need help with your mask fit, choosing a CPAP mask that fits your needs, or replacing a worn-out mask, don’t hesitate to contact us via our Chat Support feature or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.