Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. This treatment requires patients to wear a CPAP mask at night while sleeping, so they can continue to receive airflow when pauses in breathing occur. A CPAP mask is connected to a small machine with a hose that pumps pressurized air into the airways to keep them open.
CPAP therapy can be highly effective at treating sleep apnea, but only if patients find a comfortable, properly fitting CPAP mask that motivates them to stick to their treatment plan. Here’s an overview of three different styles of CPAP masks and how they work so you can choose the right mask for you based on your breathing patterns and preferred sleep position.
CPAP Nasal Pillows
CPAP nasal pillows are tiny masks that fit into the nostrils to direct airflow through the nose only. This type of CPAP mask is small, compact, and lightweight. They are ideal for those who want to avoid wearing large masks for reasons such as claustrophobia, lots of facial hair, or a narrow nose bridge.
CPAP nasal pillows are the best CPAP masks for side sleepers as they are small and less likely to become dislodged from the face. This mask also works great for those who wear glasses or who want unobstructed vision while reading or watching TV before falling asleep.
CPAP nasal pillows work best for patients who sleep with their mouths closed, breathe through their noses, and require a low to moderate airway pressure setting. This type of CPAP mask may not work as well for those who require extremely high airway pressure, since high-pressure air that flows into the nose can be uncomfortable and lead to nasal dryness and nosebleeds. However, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine states that CPAP nasal pillows may be just as effective as nasal masks and are a suitable option for those who need high CPAP pressures.
Nasal CPAP Mask
Nasal CPAP masks fit over the nose from the bridge to the upper lip area and usually feature pads and soft inner cushions for added comfort. This CPAP mask is the most common type of mask used among patients with obstructive sleep apnea, since it offers more versatility and comes in a variety of different styles and sizes.
Nasal CPAP masks are usually ideal for those who tend to move a lot in their sleep and prefer having multiple mask styles and options to choose from throughout CPAP treatment.
A nasal CPAP mask works best for patients who require higher airway pressure, since air flows indirectly, as opposed to directly, through the nose such as with CPAP nasal pillows. Patients who breathe through their noses and sleep with their mouths closed can benefit from this mask, especially if they use a high- pressure setting.
Full-Face CPAP Mask
A full-face CPAP mask covers both the nose and mouth to provide pressurized air to both airways. This type of CPAP mask is the best option for those who breathe primarily through their mouths, or suffer from allergies or nasal congestion that interfere with their ability to breathe easily through their noses.
Full-face CPAP masks are also a good option for patients who sleep on their backs, since this sleeping position reduces the risk of the mask becoming dislodged while tossing and turning.
A full-face CPAP mask may be less effective if you change sleep positions, wear glasses, or read before bedtime. There is also a greater risk of air leakage due to poorly fitting masks. Some patients report experiencing eye irritation and dryness due to air leaks that occur at the top of their masks.
Tips on Choosing the Right CPAP Mask
If you’re not sure which CPAP mask is ideal for you, your doctor can make recommendations based on your breathing and sleep behaviors, and allow you to try on different styles of masks. One study reports that CPAP adherence rates range from 30% to 60% for reasons such as discomfort, inconvenience, and claustrophobia. Therefore, it’s important that you choose a CPAP mask you feel comfortable using.
A board-certified sleep technician may determine the right style of CPAP mask for you during a sleep study. Your technician will adjust airway pressure settings on the CPAP machine while you sleep to determine whether you require a low, moderate, or high amount of airway pressure. This information can help you choose an ideal style of CPAP mask.
If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from sleep apnea, an at-home sleep test can be an easy, convenient way to find out. Lunella allows consumers to take a sleep apnea test from the comfort of their own home and receive a proper data-driven diagnosis from a board-certified sleep physician and a prescription for treatment, if necessary.
This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.