Starting off on CPAP for sleep apnea treatment can be an intimidating process. Not only do you have a new diagnosis, but now you are being introduced to several treatment options for which there are many variables.
Assuming that you and your doctor have chosen CPAP as the therapy option for you, your next step will be choosing a CPAP mask.
There are 100’s of masks. Each one is a little different from the others. However, they all work in the same way – they deliver air from the CPAP machine through a hose to your airway. This keeps your airway from collapsing during sleep and prevents obstructive sleep apnea.
Most CPAP masks are made of plastic and/or silicone or gel-like materials. Some are made of fabric and other hybrid materials.
Most of them are attached to an adjustable strap that keeps the mask attached to your face.
There are several types of masks:
- Nasal CPAP Mask
- Oral CPAP Mask
- Full-Face Mask (Nasal-Oral)
- Nasal “Pillows” or Prongs
- Total Face CPAP mask
- CPAP-mask with oral appliance, “hybrid CPAP mask”
Each of these masks was created to solve a specific mask interface problem or preference. These preferences and problems include:
Minimalism – reducing materials to prevent claustrophobia. Many new masks use the least amount of material and attaching strap possible to deliver air. This allows for a more natural feel during wake and sleep.
Mouth-breathing – Many people breathe with their mouths open during sleep. If you use a nasal CPAP mask and the mouth opens during sleep, air will follow the path of least resistance and exit through the mouth, thus reducing its efficacy.
Nasal obstruction – Nasal resistance and obstruction can pose a problem with CPAP when using a nasal mask. For people with challenging nasal passages, and oral CPAP mask, or full-face mask might be indicated.
Facial Hair– Mustaches and beards can interfere with the seal between the mask and the face. Some of the mask categories mentioned were designed not to interface with the hairy part of the face.
Within each of these mask categories are several subtle options.
The bottom line with choosing a CPAP mask
Don’t be intimidated by the selection of masks and CPAP mask options. The fact that there are so many options and masks means that there is no One Perfect CPAP Mask for everyone.
Try on many masks. See what is comfortable for you. Know that the mask that you choose this year may be different than the mask that you use next year. The mask is not a permanent decision. In fact, you will likely get a new mask yearly – or maybe more often. Masks were not designed to last forever.