CPAP Masks are part of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) system that delivers compressed air to a patient. The mask is a CPAP interface or appliance that comes into direct contact with the sleep apnea patient. It provides compressed air to the nose or mouth of the patient; thereby, bringing breathable air to their airway passages. This webpage will cover how to select the best mask for side sleepers, and mouth breathers.
- Types of Masks
- How to Select the Best CPAP Mask
- Sleep Apnea CPAP Masks for Beards
- How to Acclimate to a Mask
- Medical Studies
Many different patient characteristics drive the design and construction. The key attributes can be broken down into the following three categories: patient positions, facial sensitivity, and breathing preferences. These characteristics play a critical role in selecting the best CPAP mask to meet individual needs.
CPAP patients tend to favor particular sleeping positions. Some prefer to sleep on their back while others prefer sleeping on their side. A few sleep on their stomach. Many patients switch up how they sleep night-to-night or several times during the same night. Nearly all masks support patients who sleep on their back. Full face units aid patients with congestion. Nasal masks help side sleepers and patients that are touch sensitive to their forehead or nose bridge. The best support for stomach sleepers are the nasal pillows, particularly the type that route the supply hose from the top of the patient's head. These support patients who tend to toss-and-turn throughout the night. They are the least intrusive and the most comfortable for patients that frequently change sleep positions.
Many CPAP patients experience sensitivity to the unit pressing-down on their forehead. This constant pressure keeps them annoyed and awake throughout the night. Some experience sensitivity to the bridge of their nose. These sensitivities can interrupt a patient’s CPAP therapy. Studies have shown that patients who experience these sensitivities have great difficulty complying with the number of sleep hours they should be obtaining nightly. Most patients with facial sensitivities experience significant challenges with using a full face mask. Several manufacturers have designed alternative full face masks that route the support frame and the headgear away from the forehead. Other manufacturers implement soft, contouring cushions in the areas that are sensitive to touch. Many patients adapt to alternative types like the hybrid or one of the nasal masks to achieve a night of comfortable therapeutic sleep.
Patient Breathing Preferences
Most patients breathe through their nose, both awake and asleep. However, many CPAP patients breathe exclusively through their mouth during sleep. It is ineffective to force patients to use CPAP therapy nasally when they do not inhale and exhale that way. There are also patients that tend to switch from nose to mouth breathing several times throughout the night. CPAP manufacturers design their products to accommodate these different breathing preferences. The full face mask and the hybrid mask allows patients to breathe through their mouth or nose. The hybrid mask also has the advantage of avoiding the sensitive areas of the forehead and nose bridge. For patients that breathe exclusively through their mouth, the best option is the oral mask.
Types of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Masks
There are five different types of sleep apnea mask for sale—nasal pillow, nasal, full face, oral, and hybrid. The differences in these product attempt to accommodate the different patient sleeping characteristics discussed above. Different design styles adapt to the patient’s facial features, size, sleeping patterns, and breathing habits. Each characteristic targets specific needs of CPAP patients. The Venn diagram below color codes each mask type and displays which type best meet patient sleeping characteristics. In many instances, several different types can meet a patient need as displayed where the bubbles intersect. For example, patients that experience sensitive forehead and nose bridge problems sleep better with a nasal pillows, oral, or hybrid mask. Likewise, these patients should avoid a full face or a nasal mask to limit contact with sensitive facial areas.
CPAP Mask Selection Aid - Venn Diagram
Patients should be very selective in choosing a mask design that will meet their sleeping needs. Medical researchers have found that compliance by CPAP patients in wearing their mask appliance is significantly low, especially when they are using the wrong mask for their needs. The ability to wear glasses, watch TV, or read a book is not a sleeping need. Sleep apnea occurs during sleep, not while reading or watching TV. There have been a few articles posted on the Internet about wearing them while watching TV or reading books and which type of CPAP appliance can best accommodate these tasks. Instead, patients need to be concerned about which type will best accommodate sleep. Achieving compliance with CPAP prescriptions is best by matching the patient’s characteristics to the correct mask features.
Sleep Apnea Mask Profile
Below is a summary of the CPAP machine mask types and a link to more specific information about individual products.
- Nasal Mask – nasal delivery, small size, small profile.
- Nasal Pillows Mask – direct nasal delivery, small size, small profile, minimal headgear, avoids sensitive areas.
- Full Face Mask – provide both nasal and oral delivery, routes tubing to front of the mask.
- Hybrid Mask – offer both nasal and oral delivery, routes tubing to front of the mask, avoids contact with sensitive areas.
- Oral Mask – provide mouth delivery, routes tubing to front of the mask, avoids sensitive areas, provides minimal headgear.
How to Select the Best CPAP Mask
The different designs employed in CPAP sleep apnea masks accommodate the needs of individual patients. One specific option will not support the needs of all patients. A review of the patient’s sleeping and breathing habits compared with the characteristics of each mask should lead to choosing the best CPAP mask for their specific needs.
CPAP Masks for Beards
Individuals with facial hair find it difficult to maintain an adequate seal with their mask. The best mask choice for people with beards are the masks with the least facial contact. Therefore, patients with facial hair should consider a solution from the nasal masks or the nasal pillows that offer the least amount of contact with the face.
Tips to Acclimate to Sleep Apnea Masks
- Practice applying and removing your breathing machine mask while looking into a mirror. Always use your headgear connections to apply and remove your CPAP breathing mask. By stretching the headgear over your head, you will shorten the lifespan of your headgear.
- If you wake up with a dry mouth, you may be breathing through your mouth while you are asleep. It may prove beneficial to use a chin strap or switch to a full face model.
- Should fit snug, but should never cause pain or discomfort. If your mask is causing you pain or discomfort, try loosening your headgear.
- Should never leak into your eyes, around your cheeks, chin, or upper lip. If you can hear or feel a pressure leak, try slightly tightening the headgear.
- Mortimore, I. L., A. T. Whittle, and N. J. Douglas. "Comparison of nose and face mask CPAP therapy for sleep apnoea." Thorax 53.4 (1998): 290-292.
- Teo, Ming, et al. "Equivalence of nasal and oronasal masks during initial CPAP titration for obstructive sleep apnea syndrome." Sleep 34.7 (2011): 951-955.
- Borel, Jean Christian, et al. "Type of mask may impact on continuous positive airway pressure adherence in apneic patients." PloS one 8.5 (2013): e64382.