After you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, purchasing a quality CPAP or BiPAP machine to provide a consistent flow of air pressure throughout the night will prove essential for helping you enjoy better sleep.
But a CPAP machine isn’t the only piece of equipment that matters for ensuring effective treatment. If you want to get the best results from your sleep apnea therapy, you must also carefully consider what type of CPAP mask will best fit your needs.
By choosing a mask that fits comfortably against your face while also providing an airtight seal, you can enjoy higher-quality sleep and avoid many of the long-term negative consequences of sleep apnea.
Understanding the Three Types of CPAP Masks
One of the first things new CPAP users should be mindful of is that there are three primary types of CPAP masks they can choose from. Regardless of the type of mask you choose, exhalation ports and mask cushions help ensure comfortable breathing throughout the night. Adjustable headgear will help you achieve the right balance of tightness and comfort.
Full Face Mask: A full face mask covers the user’s nose and mouth. These are the largest and bulkiest of all CPAP mask options, but they are the best option for those who breathe through their mouth at night. Full face masks are also better equipped to handle higher levels of air pressure than other mask options. Examples of full face masks include the Philips Respironics ComfortGel Blue Full Face Mask with Headgear and the Philips DreamWear Full Face Mask.
Nasal Mask: A nasal mask is placed over the nose, but does not extend over the mouth. The majority of nasal masks come in a triangular shape to ensure that the nasal area is fully covered. A soft nasal pillow is used to relieve pressure against the skin, particularly the bridge of the nose. Examples of nasal masks include the Fisher & Paykel Eson 2 Nasal CPAP Mask with Headgear and the ResMed Mirage FX Nasal Mask with Headgear.
Nasal Pillows: Nasal pillows are a more minimalist version of a nasal mask. Rather than placing a mask over the nose, this smaller CPAP mask option is actually comprised of two flexible pillows that are inserted into the nostrils. This makes nasal pillows much less prone to leaking than other CPAP mask options. However, this also makes them uncomfortable if higher air pressure settings are needed. Popular nasal pillows include the Philips Respironics DreamWear Gel Nasal Pillow CPAP Mask and the ResMed AirMini P10 Nasal Pillow.
Caring For Your CPAP Mask
Regardless of the type of CPAP mask you choose, one thing remains consistent — the need for regular cleaning and maintenance. The moisture that is produced by your CPAP machine’s humidifier, as well as the moisture that is released during exhalation, can result in mildew growth and bacterial buildup inside your system. This can increase your risk of respiratory infections and make it more difficult to get healthy after an illness.
The parts of your CPAP mask that come into contact with your skin will also get dirty. Sweat, facial oils, and dead skin cells can all accumulate on the mask. Over time, this can actually lead to deterioration of the cushions and the silicone components of the mask.
To protect your health and improve the longevity of your mask, you should clean it every day. Most CPAP manufacturers recommend that users disconnect their mask from the CPAP machine and tubing and then wash it with warm water and a mild dish soap. You can also soak the mask in mixture of warm water and dish soap (or white vinegar) for half an hour. After washing, the mask should be rinsed with clean water and wiped with a clean lint-free cloth before being allowed to air dry.
Because such daily cleaning can be a bit of a hassle, CPAP mask cleaning wipes are also available as an easier alternative. For the most effective cleaning, however, it may be worth investing in a specialty cleaning device like the VirtuCLEAN CPAP and Mask Automatic Cleaner. Such devices use ozone to eliminate 99 percent of bacteria inside your mask and tubing.
Choosing the Right CPAP Mask
So which CPAP mask option is the best fit for your needs? While you might already have an idea in mind based on the basic description of the three mask types, there are several important factors to consider to help you select the right mask. Remember, the right CPAP mask will make all the difference in ensuring that you get the desired results from your sleep apnea treatment.
1. Your Sleep Habits
As it turns out, your sleep position — and how much you move around during sleep — can greatly influence which mask will work best for you. Because of their larger and bulkier design, full face masks are generally not recommended for individuals who sleep on their stomach. Some nasal masks may also experience the same problem.
Similarly, such masks are also more likely to get knocked loose if you roll around a lot in your sleep. Because of this, individuals who sleep on their stomachs or frequently move around during their sleep should use nasal pillows, if possible.
Nasal pillows and nasal masks are also a good option for users who like to read or watch TV shortly before going to bed. These masks won’t obscure your vision in the way that a full face mask would, and even allow you to wear glasses. This can make it much easier to gradually adapt to the flow of air as you go through your bedtime routine.
If you sleep on your side or back, your sleep position shouldn’t limit the type of mask that you use. Keep in mind, however, that research has found that sleeping on your side is the best position for reducing instances of sleep apnea.
Finally, be mindful of the way you breathe. If you often breathe through your mouth while sleeping, you should get a full face mask. Otherwise, the air pressure being delivered to your nose could essentially be going to waste.
2. Comfort Level
A comfortable fit is a key part of using your mask effectively, but comfort comes down to more than just sizing. Many new CPAP users struggle with feelings of claustrophobia because of the weight and bulk of the mask pressing against their face.
While these feelings can diminish with time or by practicing wearing the mask during the day, for some, the claustrophobia is too much to deal with. If you experience these sensations, you will likely be better served by using a nasal mask or nasal pillows rather than a full face mask. The lighter weight and unobscured vision of these masks can help them feel less intrusive.
You should also be mindful of the cushioning offered by your mask. A soft inner cushion will allow your CPAP mask to rest comfortably against your skin, reducing discomfort and potential skin irritation. The more comfortable your mask feels, the less likely you are to experience leaks or remove it during the night.
3. Forming a Proper Seal
While nasal pillows are relatively leak-proof, those who use full face masks or nasal masks must exercise care to ensure that their mask provides an airtight seal for nightly use. You should adjust your mask’s headgear to create a fit that keeps the mask pressed firmly against the skin without getting too tight.
Men with facial hair should be especially mindful of how their mask fits against their face. This is because facial hair can keep the mask from forming as tight of a seal as it needs to, increasing the risk of an air leak.
It may be helpful to consult with a medical practitioner to better understand how to fit your mask. Air leaks don’t just reduce the effectiveness of your treatment. An air leak around the bridge of the nose could send dry air into the eyes, resulting in dryness and irritation. On the other hand, over-tightening the mask could cause a rash or irritation on your skin.
4. Sizing Your Mask
One of the most important factors for avoiding leaks and skin irritation is to select a mask that is properly sized for your face. To know which mask size is right for you, you will need to take measurements of your face.
For a full face mask, measure the distance from the bridge of your nose to the area beneath your lower lip. Then measure your mouth’s width. A full face mask should completely cover your mouth and fit comfortably at the bridge of the nose. For a nasal mask, you should measure the height and width of your nose.
With these measurements in hand, you will then want to compare your face measurements to the size offerings from various mask manufacturers. Most masks are available in three sizes. Choose the size that most accurately reflects your measurements and will provide full coverage of your nose (and mouth, if getting a full face mask).
Smaller masks for women, such as the ResMed Mirage FX For Her, have also been recently introduced. These masks offer a different range of sizes and are better suited to female facial contours.
5. Proprietary Connections
Your choice of CPAP device could affect which masks you can use. While many CPAP machines can work with almost any type of CPAP mask, others require the use of proprietary masks.
The ResMed AirMini AutoSet Travel CPAP is one example of this. This CPAP device is only compatible with four specialty ResMed masks. Other travel CPAP devices use smaller tubing, so even though they can work with almost any mask, an additional adapter may be needed.
Before purchasing a CPAP machine and mask, be sure to review the device’s specifications to see if there are any limitations regarding which masks you can use. You don’t want to order a new CPAP mask and find out that it is incompatible with your device!
6. Your Treatment Requirements
Each person is unique — and so are their treatment needs. Your doctor will prescribe the level of air pressure delivery for use in your sleep apnea treatment. This doesn’t just affect what type of machine you get — it will also influence which masks are best for you.
For example, nasal pillows are discouraged when a patient needs pressure settings higher than 10 cm h2O. This is because the higher air pressure combined with the nasal pillow design can become extremely uncomfortable and dry out the nasal passages.
Full face masks are generally the best option for individuals with the highest pressure treatment settings. Their design allows for more comfortable disbursement of the air, even at higher pressure levels. Consult with your doctor to determine which mask type would work best for your prescribed treatment setting. Be mindful of the fact that your doctor may eventually elect to increase or decrease your air pressure settings based on initial treatment feedback.
With a comfortable CPAP mask that is compatible with your sleep habits, you will have a much easier time remaining compliant with your treatment plans. Of course, as with the CPAP device itself, buying your CPAP mask and its replacement components can become a bit expensive if you don’t have adequate insurance coverage.
This is where Help Medical Supplies comes in. We offer a wide variety of CPAP masks from top brands like ResMed and Philips Respironics at significantly discounted prices. Some masks are available for as much as 54 percent off their standard list pricing! We also make it easier for individuals just getting started with their therapy with speciality bundles that include a CPAP machine, mask, tubing, and other accessories.
With free shipping on orders over $89 and available financing on qualifying purchases over $500, we provide even more ways to save as you get the equipment that will help you enjoy rejuvenating sleep night after night.
As long as you have a valid prescription from a licensed medical professional, you can get the equipment you need at a price you can afford. With the right mask and machine at the right price, better sleep is closer than you might expect!