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CPAP Mask Buying Guide

August 18, 2020 5 min read

Mask Buying Guide: How to choose a CPAP Mask

On average we spend one third of our life asleep.  Since we spend so much time sleeping, comfort is important and also that this time leaves you feeling rested and refreshed.

More than 1.8 million Australians have sleep apnea and knowing your options when it comes to finding your perfect mask sets you up for therapy success.

Find the Mask for Your Breathing Style

Firstly, establish if your primarily breathe through your nose or mouth at night.  Your breathing style will determine what mask will work best with your lifestyle. If you breathe from your nose, consider a nasal or nasal pillow mask. However, if you breathe using a combination of your nose or your mouth, a full-face mask maybe more suitable
CPAP masks are available in three basic styles: full face, nasal pillow and nasal. Full face masks typically cover your nose and mouth. Nasal pillow masks provide air directly to your nostrils, and nasal masks supply air to the base of your nose.

Design Features of CPAP Masks

Nasal and nasal pillow masks deliver oxygen through your nasal passages while full face masks channel oxygen to your nose and mouth.
Key Similarities and Differences:

Nasal

Nasal Pillow

Full Face

Breathing Style

Nose

Nose

Mouth and Nose

Air Delivery

At the Base of Your Nose

Directly to Your Nostrils

By Covering Your Nose and Mouth

Sleeping Position

Side, Back, and Stomach

Side, Back, and Stomach

Side and Back

Ideal Pressure Settings

Any: Personalized to You

Low to Moderate

Low to High

Pros

• Pressure Settings Customized for You: High-Pressure Friendly
• Great for All Sleeping Positions

• Minimal and Lightweight Design
• Great for All Sleeping Positions

• Great for People Who Breathe Through Their Mouth
• Back Sleeper Friendly

Cons

• Not Suitable for Those Who Breathe Through Their Mouth at Night

• Not Suitable for Those Who Need Higher Pressures

• Not Suitable for Primary Nose Breathers or Stomach Sleepers

 

Considerations When Buying a CPAP Mask

Sizing Options: Masks are not one-size-fits-all but should be the right fit for you. Small, Medium, and Large sizes are available while also often coming in Wide. The “For Her” versions frequently come in Extra Small, Small, and Medium to fit petite face shapes. Your mask size should fit your face size and shape to provide a comfortable and secure fit and seal.
Air Pressure: Your ideal pressure setting is determined with your doctor based on your CPAP therapy needs. However, every mask does not support all pressures. Nasal and full face masks offer the most pressure flexibility since they accommodate pressure rates from low to high. Nasal pillow masks, however, work best in low to moderate pressure rates.
Cushion Material: Your mask’s cushion material should be most comfortable for you. Silicone cushions offer more comfort, flexibility and freedom of movement in comparision to cushions made of cloth, gel or foam.
Open Line of Sight: The absence of a forehead strap allows you to have a clear line of sight. If you prefer to watch T.V., read a book, or text before bed, then a view clear of obstructions is crucial.
Secure Seal and Easy On-Off Process: The type of mask closure affects the secureness of your mask’s seal. Features such as Headgear Quick-Clips prevent you from having to constantly adjust your headgear each time you take it on or off, leaving the frustrating process as a thing of the past. The Swift FX and the AirFit F20 all come equipped with Quick-Clips. The AirFit P10 For Her has a soft elastic headgear that is easily adjustable, comfortable, and velcro free. The DreamWear Nasal has adjustable straps to fit your head shape while offering a secure seal.
Allergy Suffers: If you suffer from severe allergies or are frequently congested, then a nasal or full face mask may be the best option for you since inhalation drives the oxygen flow. Nasal pillow masks insert oxygen directly into your nostrils, which may lead to an ineffective oxygen supply if you are congested.
Changing Mask Cushions: Follow your specific mask’s manufacturing instructions on how often to change your mask cushions. Most cushions can be easily detached to replace every few months.

 

Sizing Guides. Many Nasal and Full Face masks have sizing guides available to help determine the size needed. Simply print the sizing guide, cut out if needed, and use a mirror or helper to look at the guide to see if it is a proper fit on the face. Please note, to ensure the guide is the proper size, it should be printed in PDF format at 100% scale, meaning "Fit to Page" may have to be disabled.

 How Do I Stop My CPAP Mask from Leaking?
Stopping a CPAP mask from leaking can be frustrating, especially if the leak happens repeatedly during the night. Mask leaks can be caused by a number of things including:

  • Headgear Not Being Tight Enough or Too Tight
  • Body Position Changes Increasing Pressure from Bed Pillow
  • CPAP Pressure Increases During the Night
  • Human Oils Causing Seal to Slip
  • Beard or Mustache Preventing a Good Seal

Sometimes leaks can happen as the result of changes in body position or pressure setting. A person could shift in position, and the mask can press on the bed pillow with enough force to cause the seal to break, creating the leak. With Automatic CPAP machines, the pressure output is variable and the machine can select any setting from 4 - 20. If the headgear isn't tight enough, and the machine selects a much higher pressure than what it was when the night began; it can cause the seal to break in the middle of the night.
Most of the time, simply adjusting the mask headgear straps will be good enough to stop a leak, and in the case of a leak from APAP pressure increases, it will most likely fix the issue.
For leaks that happen because of a bed pillow, it may be time for a specially designed CPAP bed pillow. These pillows are built with cutouts designed to accommodate a CPAP mask, so shifts in position don't impact the seal of the mask. CPAP bed pillows help prevent recurring mask leaks, and are intended to help keep the user asleep longer.

Human oils like sweat can sometimes create a small space between the mask and the skin. Over time, human oils can also break down the silicone, making it more difficult to get a seal. If you notice the CPAP mask slipping, it may be time to replace the cushion of your mask, and that may go a long way to helping fix the seal long term.
For men with beards, the hair creates a space where air can possibly escape, so it can take some extra planning when purchasing a mask. Try to get something that doesn't cover the upper lip if possible. This would preclude nasal masks and some types of nasal pillow masks. Full face masks, if you can tolerate them, are going to be the best option. It can also be helpful to wear a mask liner, as this can help create a better seal.