Different types of CPAP masks: Which is right for you?

Different types of CPAP masks: Which is right for you?

Different types of CPAP masks are available for those diagnosed with sleep apnea. In our last blog post, we explored the basics of what CPAP is and the many benefits it offers to sleep apnea patients, from keeping your airway open during sleep to the reduction of snoring and other apnea symptoms like fatigue and daytime drowsiness.

However, the extent to which CPAP will work for you, personally, depends a lot on what type of CPAP mask your doctor prescribes for you. The CPAP mask is an important part of your overall CPAP therapy, delivering the air from the CPAP machine to your nose and mouth. So, as you might guess, your CPAP mask should be as comfortable as possible, and offer a complete seal around your nose and/or mouth (without leaving marks on your face or irritating your skin).

Luckily, many of the CPAP masks offered today are designed to do just that — provide a great night’s sleep without causing discomfort or irritation. Let’s explore what sets these different types of CPAP masks apart from each other, and look at the advantages presented by each group of masks.

What are the different types of CPAP masks available for sleep apnea patients?

There are three main types of CPAP masks, and they’re generally available in all sizes. Some manufacturers like ResMed also offer “For Her” versions of these masks, designed specifically for the contours of a woman’s head and face.

  • Full face masks cover your nose and your mouth;
  • Nasal masks fit over your nose only, offering a lighter fit than full face masks; and
  • Nasal pillow masks are even more lightweight and minimal than nasal masks, offering a high level of openness and visibility.

Based on these descriptions, it may seem obvious that you’d prefer a lighter mask over a heavier one, or a smaller mask over a bigger one. But there are other factors to consider. For example, masks that cover more of your face can sometimes offer a better seal against leaking, leading to improved therapy. Likewise, if you have facial hair, you may find that you need a larger mask to get a better seal. Or, if you have claustrophobia, it’s likely that a smaller mask will feel more comfortable.

Despite a slightly greater weight, you may simply find that full face masks feel more comfortable — it often comes down to personal preference, and how a specific mask style will fit over the unique contours of your face. In any case, your doctor can help you try on a number of masks and determine which of them offers the best, most comfortable fit for you.

And this is important! If you’re not comfortable with your CPAP mask, there’s a tendency to “forget” to wear it some nights, or to take it off halfway through the night because it doesn’t feel comfortable — sometimes, you don’t even realize you’ve done this until you wake up the next morning!

After all, if you’re not wearing your CPAP mask regularly, you’re not getting the full level of sleep apnea treatment, leaving you in a similar situation as before you were diagnosed — you’re likely to be drowsy and lack energy throughout the day, not to mention at risk for many other potential dangers of sleep apnea.

Finally, although the vast majority of CPAP masks fall within the three categories listed above, we should note that they’re not the only types of CPAP masks available to treat sleep apnea. Less frequently prescribed masks include total face masks (covering the whole face), oral masks (covering the mouth only) and hybrid masks(offering various combinations of the previously described CPAP masks). Depending on how severe your situation is, you may find your doctor recommending one of them, although they’re not used as much as the three we’ve listed above.

What different types of CPAP masks are you familiar with? Do you have any favorites? Are there any that haven’t worked for you? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the community.

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