How to choose the best CPAP Mask
While CPAP devices and masks offer the best and most immediate chance of getting a good night’s sleep for those who have sleep apnea, they all suffer from the same trouble. Unless a person has significant daytime benefits from using CPAP at night, the majority of CPAP users quit using the machine after just a few months of use. In fact, it has been shown that only half of all CPAP users regularly make use of their mask while asleep.
One of the things that impacts a person’s ability to tolerate CPAP is the comfort of their masks. They must fit snugly and without air leaks but must not seem too confining. Masks must be made from comfortable materials that rest gently on your facial skin. You’d be surprised at the number of masks out there that are simply too uncomfortable to be able to be worn all night long for days on end. For those who sleep better on their sides, there are special CPAP Masks for Side Sleepers.
CPAP masks can be as small as an air pillow mask that simply covers the nostrils or as large as a full face mask. Here is a list of the best CPAP masks available.
These involve a head strap that snuggly fits a small mask that just covers your nose. They make several types for both men and women. The big advantage of this type of mask is that it does not block your field of vision. Nasal masks for sleep apnea cover more of the nose than do air pillow masks and have a better chance staying on your face at night. One example of this type of mask is the AirFit series of masks put out by ResMed Air Solutions.
Air pillow mask
This is perhaps the least restrictive of the masks and involves a strap with two holes, one for each nostril. While it is relatively comfortable and gives you a good line of sight, the air pillow mask tends to slip out of the nostrils during the night, especially if you are a fitful sleeper. Some simply have ear straps that go behind the ears rather than having to wear a strap around the back of the head. The Swift FX series of masks are designed to be air pillow masks but differ in the way they attach to the head.
Full face masks
These masks cover both nose and mouth and yet still provide you with clear vision. They fit snugly in most people but not everyone has the facial shape to accommodate this type of mask. Full face masks are the masks of choice if you are mostly a mouth breather, rather than being a nose breather. An example of a full face mask is the AirFit™ F10 for him or her.
Nasal Gel Masks
These are simply nasal masks that have a gel seal for greater comfort. The gel cushions the face and yet keeps the nasal mask affixed in the proper position. These tend to be more comfortable than masks which have air cushioning.
Masks come in all sizes and shapes. Pediatric masks are designed to better fit a child’s face without leaking.
Non vented masks
These are designed for people who are on life support due to respiratory failure. They are usually full face masks that are intended for people who need to be on a ventilator for a long period of time. People who are at home on long term ventilator support can use these masks effectively.
Tips on choosing the best sleep apnea mask
It’s important to choose a mask that fits and is comfortable. When you are first fitted with a CPAP mask, the healthcare provider will take into account your nose shape, the shape of your face, whether or not you have a beard and your own personal preference in a mask. Ideally, you should start out with the least restrictive mask, such as the nasal pillow mask. The mask comes into contact only at your nostrils and has a head strap to allow for a snug fit on your head.
If the nasal pillow mask does not stay on as much as you would like, you could be fitted with a mask that involves just your nose with straps to hold the device over the nose. It is a bit more intrusive than the nasal pillow masks but the nasal mask tends to provide you with a better ability to see without the mask getting in the way.
Full face masks can feel very claustrophobic in many people who try them. If you are a mouth breather, however, this may be the only way to go. Full face masks must follow the contour of your nose, cheeks and chin. They must be snug fitting without air leaks that can undermine the purpose of having a CPAP device on in the first place.
While you may try on a mask in the sleep center that seems to be perfect for you, it is not often a good measure as to the ultimate level of comfort that you will experience when you must wear the mask all night long for many days in a row. With nasal pillows, you may find that you can’t keep them properly snug. Nasal masks and full face masks can pinch your skin in places or can raise tiny blood vessels in your face because the mask was too snug and pushed on a prominence in your face , nose or cheeks.
It is not uncommon for a person to try on several masks that they take home in order to try out their ability to be both comfortable and effective in getting a night’s sleep without snoring or having breath-stopping periods. Don’t be afraid to tell your sleep healthcare provider when a mask is not working for you so you can try another one. There are many masks out there to try so don’t give up trying to find the optimal mask for you.