While choosing the right type of CPAP device is crucial for getting the best results for your sleep apnea therapy, your mask selection can have an equally significant impact on the quality of your treatment. Of course, if you are new to CPAP therapy in general, the number of mask options available can seem a bit intimidating.
First things first, however: you must start by determining which type of CPAP mask will be the most comfortable and effective option for providing airflow throughout the night. You don’t want your mask to leak or prove to be so uncomfortable that it disrupts your sleep.
By better understanding the pros and cons of various mask options, as well as the other factors you should be aware of when purchasing a CPAP mask, you will be better prepared to make the right selection.
Full Face Masks
Full face masks are designed to cover both the mouth and nose, ensuring that no matter how your breathing changes during the night, you will continue to receive the necessary air flow. These masks are most often recommended for individuals who breathe through their mouth, including those who frequently suffer from nasal infections or have a deviated septum. Full face masks are also typically recommended for individuals who require higher pressure treatment settings, as these masks are better equipped to handle higher air pressure.
Full face masks use a soft inner cushion so they will rest comfortably against the face, while a hard plastic portion connects to the CPAP tubing to deliver pressurized air. Either forehead straps or a full headgear set can be used to hold the mask in place during treatment.
Though full face masks can prevent leaks for people who breathe through their mouth, they are also much bulkier than other mask options. This can prove uncomfortable and even claustrophobic for some users. The large size also makes full face masks more difficult to use for individuals who sleep on their stomach.
When not worn properly, full face masks are prone to leaks around the bridge of the nose, which can irritate the eyes. The masks are more likely to come loose or leak if you roll around at night. Individuals with facial hair are also more likely to experience leaks, as the hair prevents the mask from forming a tight seal.
However, new advances have been made to make full face masks lighter and more comfortable than before. The ResMed AirFit F10 Full Face Mask With Headgear utilizes a circular diffused venting system to direct exhaled air away from you (and anyone near you) to reduce noise and improve comfort during the night. The Philips Respironics Amara View Full Face CPAP Mask with Headgear incorporates a unique nostril opening to eliminate the need for forehead support and improve visibility while wearing the mask.
Nasal masks are perhaps the most popular CPAP mask option thanks to their lighter weight and ability to provide quality treatment at a wide pressure range. These masks rest directly over the nose. Though most use a triangular shape to fully enclose the nasal area, under-the-nose cushions and other alternative designs have also been developed to provide a greater variety of styles that improve comfort and usability. As with full face masks, a soft nasal pillow presses the sturdy plastic frame against the skin to create a comfortable seal. Adjustable headgear then keeps the mask in place during the night.
Because nasal masks aren’t as bulky, they are typically less likely to induce feelings of claustrophobia among users. Like full face masks, nasal masks can also deliver higher CPAP pressures comfortably.
However, many nasal masks are still too bulky to be worn by those who sleep on their stomach. Similar to full face masks, individuals with facial hair may also have difficulty achieving a tight seal that delivers effective treatment. Of course, anyone who breathes through their mouth during the night probably won’t get the quality therapy that they need to manage their sleep apnea.
For most users, however, nasal masks serve as the most comfortable and convenient CPAP mask option. Products like the Philips Respironics DreamWear Under the Nose Nasal Mask with Headgear even allow users to wear glasses while wearing their nasal mask. There are also plenty of nasal masks that use a more traditional design, such as the Philips Respironics ComfortGel Blue Nasal Mask with Hedgear or the ResMed Mirage Active LT Nasal Masks with Headgear.
Nasal pillows are the smallest CPAP mask available. Instead of using a mask that is placed over the nose, these masks use two small, flexible “pillows” the are inserted directly into the nostrils. These pillows are then connected to the CPAP tubing via an adaptor, ensuring a consistent flow of air throughout the night.
Because of their unique air delivery system, nasal pillows are far less likely to leak than other CPAP masks. This makes them especially beneficial for individuals with facial hair, as well as those whose face measurements make it difficult to find a good fit with other mask types. Due to their compact size, nasal pillows are also ideal for patients who roll around in their sleep or sleep on their stomach. The lack of a bulky mask also allows users to wear glasses, read, or watch TV while using nasal pillows.
Despite these conveniences, nasal pillows aren’t without their drawbacks. Some find the direct flow of air into the nostrils to be more uncomfortable than wearing a standard mask. For patients who have been prescribed settings greater than 10 cmh20, nasal pillows are discouraged due tothe extreme discomfort that can result. High pressure settings when using nasal pillows can actually cause the nose to dry out and increase the occurrence of nosebleeds.
The increasing popularity of nasal pillows means that more and more manufacturers are providing these products than ever before. The AirWay Management Tap Pap Nasal Pillow System CPAP Mask, the ResMed AirFit P10 Nasal Pillow CPAP Mask with Headgear, and the Philips Respironics Pro Gel Pillows Mask are just a few examples of the products currently available.
While selecting the right type of CPAP mask is undeniably important, even the best mask won’t do you much good if it is the wrong size. An improper fit will be uncomfortable against your skin, and will be far more likely to leak during the night, which will greatly reduce the effectiveness of your treatment.
To address this, most CPAP masks are available in multiple sizes to better meet the needs of different face shapes and body types. To determine the right sizing, you will simply need to take some quick measurements of your face.
For nasal mask users, you will need to measure the height and width of your nose to ensure that the mask provides full coverage. For the purposes of nasal mask measurements, a small nose is considered to be approximately 1.75 inches tall by 1.5 inches wide, a medium nose is 2 inches tall and 1.75 inches wide, and a large nose is 2.25 inches tall and 2 inches wide.
If you use a full face mask, you should measure the distance from the bridge of your nose to just under your lips for height, and use the width of your mouth for width measurements. The mask should completely cover the mouth when in a neutral position. Small full face masks are generally 3.25 inches tall and 2.75 inches wide, medium masks measure 3.5 inches tall and 3.25 inches wide, and large masks come in at 4.25 inches tall and 3.25 inches wide.
Naturally, not everyone will have measurements that come in at these exact sizes. For best results, choose the mask size that is closest to your personal measurements while still providing full coverage.
Women also typically have smaller face measurements than men. While this can make it difficult to find the right mask size, some manufacturers have begun to offer product lines with smaller sizes for women. Products like the ResMed AirFit F10 Full Face Mask for Her with Headgear or the ResMed Swift FC for Her Nasal Pillows Mask offer petite sizing and a gentler fit that better accommodates female facial contours.
Remember, the right size will improve both the comfort and effectiveness of your therapy — spending a little extra time to take your measurements is well worth the effort! It can also be helpful to have a family member or even your doctor help double check your measurements to ensure you get things right.
After purchasing a CPAP mask that seems to be the right size, you will likely still need to make some adjustments to prevent leaks during the night. The best way to ensure a proper fit is to tighten the mask’s head straps while you are lying down on your bed, similar to how you will use the mask while sleeping.
Many CPAP devices also provide leak detection features so you can test your setup. Continue to make adjustments as needed until there are no longer any leaks present, while ensuring that the seal isn’t too tight against your face. If leaks continue to occur even after continual adjustments, you may need to consult with your doctor to see about getting a different mask size.
While many CPAP masks use universal connections that make them compatible with almost any device, some equipment requires proprietary hookups that can limit your options. For example, the ResMed AirMini AutoSet Travel CPAP is only compatible with four mask varieties. Individuals who wish to use this travel CPAP’s HumidX inserts are further limited, as only the AirFit N20 and AirFit P10 for AirMini can be used with this add-on feature.
As such, choosing the right mask for your sleep apnea therapy should start with the device selection. After finding a model that seems like a good fit for your needs, be sure to thoroughly read through its specifications to see which CPAP masks are compatible. After all, you don’t want to waste your money by purchasing a mask that can’t be used with your device.
If you plan on also buying a travel CPAP device, double-check its specifications as well. If your home and travel CPAP devices are compatible with the same types of masks, you will have one less thing to worry about as you stock up on needed supplies.
Keep in mind that many travel CPAP devices use 15 mm tubing, rather than standard 22 mm tubing. While some devices come with adaptors that allow you to use your regular mask, others may require that you purchase the adaptor separately. Be sure to do your research so you will have everything you need to use your device when it arrives!
Caring For Your Mask
As with other CPAP equipment, your mask needs to be cleaned on a consistent basis to prevent bacterial buildup and maintain a proper seal. Most manufacturers recommend that you wash your mask daily to keep facial oils from breaking down the silicone components in the mask.
For this daily cleaning, disconnect the CPAP mask from its tubing and headgear. The mask (as well as the headgear and tubing) should be soaked in warm water with a mild antibacterial dish soap for half an hour. The mask should then be wiped down with a wet, clean cloth before getting rinsed and allowed to air dry. Sanitary mask wipes can also be used as a faster cleaning alternative.
Once a week, the mask should be sanitized by soaking it in a mix of three parts water and one part white vinegar. The mask should then be rinsed off with distilled water. If you have been sick, you may need to temporarily perform this additional sanitation process more frequently.
The mask and its associated components should never be placed in a dishwasher or washing machine, as the rough cleaning cycles could damage the mask. Similarly, more powerful cleaners, such as bleach, would also cause significant damage to the mask materials. Before going to bed, it’s also a good idea to wash your face, as this will reduce the mask’s exposure to oils in the skin that can cause it to deteriorate more quickly.
In addition to this ongoing care, you should also follow the manufacturer’s recommended replacement schedule for the mask and mask cushion, as this will ensure the best possible performance. Though exact specifications vary based on the mask, most manufacturers recommend replacing the mask cushions once or twice per month. The hard plastic masks will typically need to be replaced after three to six months of use.
By keeping track of when you should order replacement masks and other CPAP components, you can enjoy great outcomes from your sleep apnea therapy at all times.
Trying to find the best CPAP mask for your needs isn’t always easy — but here at No Insurance Medical Supplies, we help streamline the process so you can enjoy high-quality care. On our site, you will find real-life reviews from other CPAP mask users so you can have confidence when buying a new CPAP mask.
Affordability is another major concern when beginning CPAP treatment, but we have you covered there as well. We provide competitive discounted prices on many of the most popular CPAP masks on the market, as well as other needed products like CPAP mask wipes. Of course, we also offer significant discount on many CPAP therapy devices.
We also improve affordability with free shipping on orders over $89 (which covers most mask purchases), as well as financing options through TimePayment to help break your equipment purchases into affordable monthly payments.
If you have a valid prescription for CPAP treatment, No Insurance Medical Supplies is your best resource for getting the equipment you need at a price you can afford. Place your order today so you can start enjoying higher-quality sleep!