A Good Night’s Sleep: CPAP Masks 101
CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is a type of therapy used to help people who suffer from sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea. It’s considered one of the best non-surgical methods for treating sleep disorders and is highly recommended too since it decreases daytime sleepiness, depression, heart problems and irregular blood pressure in people suffering from such disorders.
How Does CPAP Therapy Work?
This therapy is one of the safest, yet simplest methods for easy breathing with a sleep disorder during the night, using equipment that has three basic parts- an air pump, a mask that covers your nose or/and mouth and a tube that links these two parts. The pump is responsible for providing you with air from the room, which’s then gently pressurised in the tube and brought to you via the mask throughout the entire time you’re sleeping.
These masks are completely quiet, and in addition to helping to treat sleep apnea, they also can prevent the annoying snoring that keeps your partner awake during the night. Once you try it, you’ll feel the benefits of using one straight away.
The Types of CPAP Masks
CPAP Nasal Pillows
Nasal pillows are the smallest and the most lightweight variant of the CPAP masks and will sit very comfortably on your nostril entrance. This pillow is usually made of soft silicone or gel cushions and that creates a seal around your nostrils. These cushions will direct the pressured air from the pump into your nose through two nasal tubes that are inserted inside your nostrils. This mask will also sit secured around your head with convenient straps.
The pillow masks are mostly intended for people suffering from claustrophobia, or for those who simply feel uncomfortable if their face is stuffed with a lot of materials, especially while sleeping. Also, if you prefer watching TV or you wear glasses for reading books before sleeping, the nasal pillow is designed to keep your vision field clear.
CPAP Nasal Masks
If you’re a light sleeper and don’t like the constricting and claustrophobic feel a full face mask usually creates, it’s recommended to choose a quality CPAP nasal mask to get a good night’s sleep.
These masks come in a triangular shape and cover your nose from the bridge along to your upper lip, and unlike the nasal pillows, they’re ideal for people that require a smaller amount of air pressure. The CPAP nasal masks can be beneficial for a variety of reasons- not only do they provide a higher air pressure, but that pressure is also delivered more directly into your nose through a more natural airflow, unlike the nasal pillows which don’t feel comfortable at all.
These masks are the most popular among CPAP therapy users because you can find them in a large range of sizes and fits, so finding the one that suits you isn’t hard at all. What’s more, the CPAP nasal mask is also great for the “restless” sleepers that toss and turn in bed for the entire night and the side sleepers, since the nasal masks provide a great suction that keeps it tightly secured in a place.
Also, these masks are mostly intended for nose breathers, but if you think this mask is optimal for you even though you’re a mouth breather, don’t hesitate to use it since there are specially designed chin straps to keep your mouth closed while you’re sleeping.
Full Face CPAP Masks
The full face masks for treating sleeping disorders cover the entire nose and mouth, and due to that, they create a better seal over both of your airways. These masks are great if you need a large amount of air pressure and higher airflow, for the people who tend to breathe through the mouth or combined throughout the night and treating conditions such as continued nasal congestion or a deviated septum. The full face CPAP masks are also designed to be as much non-intrusive as possible, tightly secured with strips around your face.
How to Choose the Right Size?
Choosing the optimal size is of crucial importance since wearing a mask that’s too small can be painful, extremely uncomfortable and will worsen your sleep’s quality even more, and wearing a mask that is too loose won’t be of any help since the air won’t leak in the intended place.
If you don’t know which size is optimal for you, don’t worry, since you can always measure it easily, even from the comfort of your home. The most recommended method for determining your optimal size is to measure your face using a tape measure or a ruler. For this purpose, measure the area from the bridge of your nose to the indent of your chin- just below your bottom lip. After you get the right measurement, make sure you check your manufacturer’s sizing chart for determining the optimal size for you.
This way, your mask should lay in a way that its top should be at the bridge of your nose, while the bottom should sit about halfway between the bottom of your nose and the top of your upper lip. Also, the edge of the mask should lay close to your nose’s sides without touching it. If you’re concerned about air leakage, you shouldn’t worry about it as long as it’s not blowing into your eyes. But have in mind that you shouldn’t pull the headgear very tightly to control the leaks too.
Some Helpful Tips on Using CPAP Masks
Wearing both nasal masks and full-face masks can be a very uncomfortable experience in the beginning, but however, you should be persistent and don’t quit on it. For this purpose, it’s always best to give yourself some time to adjust, where you won’t wear the mask for the entire night, but just for a couple of hours until you get used to it. But if you’re wearing it for a longer period and it still doesn’t feel natural for you, it’s best to consult with your doctor or your DME tech.
When using a CPAP mask, make sure you always clean your nose well before you put it on. But even though if you do it thoroughly, sometimes the CPAP masks can cause some problems, such as a stuffy and dry nose, mouth and throat. For this reason, experts recommend bringing a humidifier in the room that will add some moisture to the air. You can also try an essential oil diffuser as a way to make your bedroom more relaxing.
If a humidifier or diffuser doesn’t help, it’s best to see your doctor since you may be suffering from some conditions such as sinusitis, rhinitis or nasal polyps. Also, if you spot any red marks, know that it’s normal and they will disappear after you remove the CPAP mask from your face. But if these marks persist or make your skin sore, your headgear might be too tight or your mask too small for you.
How to Clean the Mask
Don’t forget that you must clean your CPAP mask every day to avoid irritating your skin and causing skin rashes. The mask should be washed only with mild soaps and warm water. Make sure the soap you use doesn’t contain any antibacterial agents, scents, moisturisers, bleach or alcohol. Then, rinse it off with a mix of water and plain white vinegar to kill the germs stuck on the mask and remove the unpleasant odours.
On the other hand, the tubes and the headgear should be washed at least once a week, using only warm water and mild soaps too. The last step in the cleaning and maintaining process is to make sure you don’t leave any of these components to dry in direct sunlight, since it can damage them permanently.