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Choosing the Right CPAP Mask

Selecting a comfortable CPAP mask can be a frustrating experience to a new user. Up to 50% of people diagnosed with sleep apnea that discontinue CPAP state the number one reason as discomfort. With so many different styles and models it can be a bit overwhelming to select one to start with. Sleeping with mask on your face is foreign to most people so finding the most comfortable one is the first step in long- term CPAP compliance.

In most cases a sleep technician selects your first mask on the night of your sleep study and it’s not uncommon to make multiple changes throughout the night. The sleep technician’s intention is to pick the one they think will be most successful from the start to limit the amount of times they have to disturb your sleep study for a mask change. However, it is not uncommon for a sleep lab to be brand specific and that may limit the option of finding the right mask for you.

CPAP Mask Styles

  • Nasal: Most commonly prescribed and uses a triangle shaped silicone cushion that seals around the outside of the nose only.
  • Nasal Pillow: The least invasive mask that uses silicone pillows that seal in or around the outside of the nostril only.
  • Full Face: Uses a silicone cushion that provides a seal around the nose and mouth to allow the user to breathe through both.
  • Nasal Cradle: Uses the least invasive concept of pillow design with a cushion that cradles around the outside of both nostrils.
  • Hybrid: Combines the design of nasal pillows used in conjunction with a mouth cushion seal.
  • Cloth: This is an alternative to a silicone seal and is available in nasal and full face models.
  • Oral: Uses a mouthpiece only for air delivery and is similar to a scuba mask concept.

Want to Know Which Mask is Recommended for You?

Our staff sleep technologists and physicians have collected feedback for CPAP mask selection for the past 15 years. These are the most common situations for users and our top recommend style and models. If you are not sure which size cushion you need, we offer mask fitting guides, or you can elect to purchase fit-pack models that include all cushion sizes.

I am Claustrophobic: Use a nasal pillow or nasal cradle mask. These styles have minimal contact and typically use a single strap headgear.

I Wear Glasses: You probably have indentions at the bridge of your nose where your glasses rest. This will make you prone to mask leaks from nasal and full face. You should consider a nasal pillow or nasal cradle style. If you breathe through your mouth too then consider the hybrid style.

I Have Sensitive Skin: There are a couple of options for people that get skin irritation from their CPAP mask. You can choose to a cloth style mask that does not use silicone materials or choose a minimally invasive nasal pillow or cradle along with mask strap pads that provide a buffer between your skin and the silicone.

I Breathe Through My Mouth: This is a very common and the full face style is the best recommended solution. This can also be a sign that your machine pressure is too low and not delivering enough air thus you are opening your mouth to compensate.

I Use Bi-Level (BiPAP): Although you can use any style of mask on bi-level (BiPAP) it has been shown that better results are seen with the use of a full face mask. Bi-level uses 2 separate pressures for inhale and exhale and this can cause a bouncing effect with a nasal style. People prescribed bi-level typically have higher pressure settings and the use of nasal pillow or cradle mask can be difficult to exhale against.

My CPAP Keeps Blowing My Mouth Open: You can use any of the mask style along with a chin strapto secure your mouth closed or opt for a full face style and breathe through both.

I Have a Small Head or Face: Try the selection of CPAP masks made for women. They are available in nasal, full face and nasal pillow. These masks are designed with smaller headgear, frames, and cushion sizes to accommodate small facial features.

I Have a Narrow Nose Bridge: A nasal cradle CPAP mask is the way to go here. Using a standard nasal or full face will most likely result in high mask leak that inevitably blow air into your eyes.

I Have a Deviated Septum: A nasal style simply will not work for you here. You must use a full face, oral or hybrid style mask to benefit from using the CPAP machine.

I Have a Beard or Mustache: Don’t want to shave? No problem. Try a nasal pillow mask system that seals around the nostrils or a hybrid if you need the full face feature. You want to avoid standard nasal and nasal cradle because you will be prone to excessive mask leak from a poor seal.

I Frequently Get Colds: People that suffer from persistent allergies or frequent colds and have trouble breathing through the nose should consider keeping two masks on hand. One of which should be a full face mask to use when cold/allergies are present.

I Sleep on My Stomach: The nasal cradle or nasal pillow masks that use a tube frame design is the best recommended option. The tube frame allows air to be delivered if either side of the mask is restricted from sleeping on your side or stomach.