CPAP Nasal Masks: A Selection Guide
The nasal mask is the most common style of mask used to provide CPAP therapy for obstructive sleep apnea. The traditional nasal mask uses an “over the nose” cushion that surrounds the nose. Some nasal masks use an “under the nose” cushion that covers the nostrils only. Nasal masks work well for people who breathe mostly through their noses. Slimmer masks like the under-the-nose style mask work best for people who breathe mostly through their nose, who do not have chronic issues with nasal congestion, and who do not have CPAP settings that are particularly high.
There are numerous nasal mask models available for sale. The different brands and models of masks vary regarding features related to stability, comfort, freedom of movement, and ease of connection and disconnection. To select the optimal mask, you need to determine what characteristics are most important to you. Ultimately, the best nasal mask for you is the one that you happily wear consistently to get the most from your sleep therapy.
Key questions to ask when selecting a mask:
- Where does the mask touch the face and head?
- Where does the CPAP mask connect to my CPAP machine?
- How easy is it to get on and off?
- Which parts require replacing at regular intervals?
- What kind of breather am I?
- How high are my CPAP settings?
Variations among nasal masks
Masks with nasal cushions that are triangular and fit near the bridge of the nose and above the top lip are the most common type of nasal mask and the easiest to fit. Masks with a triangular nasal cushion typically use a frame with a vertical bar between the cushion and forehead that ends in a soft pad that rests between your eyes. This design is very stable and leak-resistant. The Philips Respironics Comfort Gel Blue Nasal Mask and the Fisher & Paykel Eson 2 are examples of this style of nasal mask.
Some masks use cushions that have a smaller footprint on your nose. They sit lower on your nose and do not have a frame piece that comes up between your eyes. This style may take a bit longer to stabilize but leaves your face free from wearing glasses and keeps your line of sight unobstructed. This style of nasal mask is a good choice for someone with claustrophobia. The ResMed AirFit N20 and the Philips Respironics Wisp mask are examples of this style of nasal mask.
Some nasal masks offer an even more compact design and use an “under the nose” cushion. These ultra-minimalist nasal masks may not work as well if the CPAP settings are in the higher range and may take a bit longer to fit precisely. They do allow maximum freedom of movement with the least amount of contact on your face. The ResMed AirFit N30i and the Philips Respironics DreamWear are examples of this style of nasal mask.
New mask designs are coming out all the time with new options and variations. The Bleep
DreamPort is an under-the-nose style interface, for example, that is really not a mask at all. Cloth masks are also available such as the SleepWeaver Advance and the SleepWeaver Elan for people with silicone sensitivity.
Sizing, fitting, and care of the mask
Masks are not one size fits all. The best size for you in one type of mask may not be the best size for you in another style of mask or brand of mask. Sizing guides are available to select the optimal size mask for your face for a specific mask.
Headgear also adjusts to keep the mask in place. Head size and face size do not always match, so it is common to need different sizes. Headgear can be purchased separately to fine-tune mask fit. When selecting any mask, always pay attention to size gauges and headgear sizes. Getting the right size is critical to your comfort and satisfaction.
Once you receive your nasal CPAP mask, take some time well before bed to fit it to your face and learn to take it on and off. Follow the directions included with the mask closely for fitting and adjustment. Also, review the cleaning recommendations and the part replacement schedule to increase your satisfaction with the mask and improve the life of the mask.
Unique Nasal Masks
There are some new and unique nasal masks on the market today that feature tubing on the top of the head with minimal contact on the face. The Dreamwear nasal mask by Philips Respironics and the Airfit N30i mask by ResMed both offer this feature with a unique Nasal Cushion that sits just below the nostrils. The innovative design of these nasal masks allows for a clear line of vision allowing you to watch tv in Bed or read.