CPAP masks deliver a steady stream of air generated by a BiPAP or CPAP machine and are used to treat sleeping issues like sleep apnea. The constant supply of air helps keep the airways clear and open which stops snoring.
These masks are usually used as one of the final treatment options for users who suffer from chronic snoring. If you aren’t at this stage in your symptoms yet you may consider trying a less invasive treatment like a specialized pillow that reduces snoring or a sleep apnea mouthpiece.
There are a wide range of sleep apnea masks to choose from that target different airways. The three most popular options are: full face, nasal and nasal cradle.
If you’re new to CPAP machines, you may not know which mask to choose. When fitted properly, a CPAP machine mask should not leave any red marks on the face and should not leak air. We will tell you more about these three popular mask types and help you find one that suits your needs.
1. Full Face CPAP Mask
Full face masks are ideal for people whose mouths drop during sleep. Shaped like a triangle, these masks seal the nose and mouth. They’re held in place by four-point head gear to keep the area sealed and ensure that the CPAP airflow can be delivered to both the mouth and nose.
A full face mask may be the best option for you if:
- You suffer from chronic sinus issues that make it difficult to breathe through your nose.
- You are congested due to a cold or seasonal allergy.
- Your mouth opens during sleep and other options, like a chinstrap, did not meet your therapy needs.
A full face mask does not cover the entire face, but it does cover most of the face. While it may sound uncomfortable, this type of mask is often preferred over a nasal mask.
Some people wear full face masks all the time, while others prefer to have one on hand in case of a cold or allergies.
Things You Need to Know
When using a full face mask, you may find that you also need to use a humidifier. When used properly, this type of mask creates a seal around both the nose and the mouth, which can lead to a dry mouth and throat. A heated hose can help combat this problem, as the warmth will keep the humidity levels up.
Another thing to consider is that these masks must cover more facial contours, which makes them more susceptible to leaks. When fitted properly, leaks should not be a problem.
If you suffer from claustrophobia, this type of mask may not be a good fit for you. They tend to be bulky and the headgear can feel confining to wear.
If a full face mask isn’t a good option for you, a hybrid mask may be a better fit. These masks are less bulky, but still deliver airflow to the nose and mouth using an oral cushion and a nasal pillow.
2. Nasal or Nose Mask
A nasal mask is the original type of CPAP mask and is still the most popular option. These masks seal the area around the nose and are held in place using four point headgear. Unlike a full face mask, these do not seal over your mouth.
These masks are ideal for people who breathe only through their noses.
Your doctor may recommend this type of mask if you:
- Need a high pressure setting on your CPAP machine
- Move around a lot in your sleep
- Want more natural airflow
Nasal masks come in a variety of materials, including cloth, silicone and gel. They’re smaller than full face masks, and they create a good seal around the nose. SleepWeaver masks are the only cloth mask on the market, but they tend to be the preferred choice for people wearing nasal masks.
When fitted properly, a nasal mask will not be noticeable to the user while using the CPAP machine. The forehead support keeps the mask in place and provides stability.
Things to Know
If you tend to move around a lot in your sleep, a nasal mask may be a good option for you. The strong suction keeps the mask securely in place even with a lot of movement. The same cannot be said for other mask types.
This type of mask is not ideal for mouth breathers unless a chin strap is used to keep the jaw closed.
Some users complain of irritation due to the pressure of the forehead support or the mask resting on the bridge of the nose. Irritation can often be alleviated by changing the fit or trying a different mask model.
If you have difficulty breathing through your nose, this mask may not be a good option for you. Those who suffer from enlarged turbinates, a deviated septum, or a narrowed or collapsed nasal valve may need a full face mask.
Users with a history of sinus issues, colds and allergies may also need to choose a different style mask.
3. Nasal Cradle Masks
Nasal cradle masks eliminate any contact with the bridge of the nose. These masks are designed with comfort and freedom of movement in mind.
The mask rests under the nose, while the support system wraps around the perimeter of the head. The hose connects to the top of the mask to keep it away from the front of the face during sleep.
Designs vary slightly from one model to the next, but the general idea is to improve airflow to the nose without restricting sleeping positions.
Things to Know
Nasal cradles do not provide the same type of seal that nasal or full face masks create. They may be more comfortable, but may not be a good fit for more severe cases of sleep apnea or other medical conditions.
These masks have a very low profile and provide the most freedom when it comes to sleeping positions. But talk to your doctor before choosing this mask type to ensure that it will benefit your CPAP therapy.
Things to Consider When Choosing a CPAP Mask
The right mask for you will depend on your sleeping style, breathing habits and your doctor’s recommendations.
The three most important things to consider when choosing a mask are:
If the mask isn’t comfortable to wear and doesn’t fit properly, it probably won’t benefit your CPAP therapy.
If you breathe through your mouth, you should be able to use most mask types with a few modifications. A chin strap can keep the mouth closed if you’re using a nasal mask, nasal pillow or nasal prong.
A hybrid mask or a full face mask can usually be used without a chinstrap, as they are designed to deliver air to both the nose and mouth.
Some people may find that it’s necessary to use a humidifier when wearing a full face or hybrid mask, so keep this mind.
Here are some other things to consider:
- If you’re an active sleeper, you will need a mask with a good seal. Nasal masks are a great option.
- If you’re claustrophobic, a nasal mask or nasal cradle may be better suited to your needs.
- If you have facial hair, you will need to find a mask with a good seal that works well on uneven surfaces.
- If you watch TV, read or wear glasses in bed, you will need a mask that doesn’t disrupt your field of vision.
It’s important to remember that what’s right for someone else may not be right for you. You may need to try a few different masks before you find one that meets your standards for comfort and fit. Work closely with your doctor to ensure that you find a mask that is comfortable and effective.
Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.