Sleep apnea is a common condition that causes a person to repeatedly stop breathing throughout the night. While there are many treatment options to address sleep apnea, the most common one is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. Once you’ve been prescribed CPAP therapy, you will need to get sleep apnea mask. The mask is attached to the tubing that is connected to the CPAP machine, which delivers the pressurized air that prevents apnea from occurring. The mask can be challenging to use at first and takes some getting used to, usually over several weeks to a few months. The good news is, there are many mask options available and finding the right CPAP mask will help you get more comfortable and breath easier at night.
What is the Best Sleep Apnea Mask?
It is very important that the mask you choose is comfortable and provide a proper seal for the airflow. You won’t be able to establish proper air pressure level with a mask that doesn’t fit correctly. Plus, a comfortable mask that fits well will make using a CPAP machine easier. In seeking a comfortable mask, keep in mind the fit, the size and the style, which is a personal preference that only you can determine.
Types of CPAP Masks
When checking CPAP masks online, you will come across many sleep apnea mask types, all with different features that provide more options for your comfort. The main types of CPAP masks include:
- Traditional Nose Mask – This mask fits just over the nose and usually features straps or a brace to stabilize it on the face. Because it rests on the upper lip, it is best for those who breathe through their nose while sleeping. It is often recommended for patients who move a lot in their sleep or need a high air pressure setting.
- Nasal Pillow Mask – The nasal pillow mask is often a solution for individuals who have certain physical features that make traditional CPAP masks uncomfortable. These physical features include a short face, a narrow nose bridge, or facial hair, all which can prevent proper fit of regular masks, resulting in leaks that allow air to blow into the eyes. This mask type tends to be small and also use straps to stabilize the frame of the mask to the face. They also rest on the upper lip and are most suitable for people who breathe through their nose and those who feel claustrophobic with the larger traditional mask.
- Full-Face Mask – This mask covers both the mouth and nose and is used to treat people who breathe through their mouth while sleeping. It has a frame that uses straps and sometimes a forehead brace to stabilize it to the face.
Size of the Mask
Depending on your face’s size and physical features, you may have a variety of mask sizes to choose from. Sizes of CPAP masks can range from extra small to extra large. In order to ensure proper fit, masks often come with different cushion sizes so you can choose the best one after you’ve slept in it at home. The straps that attach the mask to your head are generally adjustable to fit most head sizes. In case you have a particularly small or large head, you may be able to request that size for a more comfortable fit.
Because everyone’s face is different, each type of mask will fit differently on every face. The size of your upper lip, the length of your nose, the distance between your eyes and the size of your head, all will play a role in determining which mask fits you best. Know that a beard or moustache can prevent the seal between the mask and your face, so you must take that into consideration when choosing your mask.
Fit of the Mask
When it comes to getting a well-fitting CPAP mak, maybe the most important advice is not to give up if it doesn’t feel right immediately. Make sure the cushion is in good condition and that you aren’t tightening the mask too much. You can also consider trying a different brand. Just as there are several CPAP manufacturers that offer different machine models with different features, there are different masks and headgear styles within manufacturer’s lines. Virtually, any mask will fit the standard air hose, but some masks will work only with specific headgear.
Keep in mind that getting used to a CPAP machine and mask can take time, so give yourself at least a couple of weeks to adjust to your sleep apnea treatment. Try several different types of masks if you have to. You may be able to exchange a mask you’ve bought online for another one within a few weeks if you just can’t get comfortable in it, so check with the CPAP provider to see what options you have.