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Sleep Apnea Machines: What Goes Into Choosing A Mask?

By Kyle Kirkland
CPAP machines with attached masks are an effective treatment for sleep apnea, but not every mask is the same. Learn more about these devices before making your selection.

There are several treatment options for sleep apnea, a disorder that intermittently interrupts breathing during sleep. One common option is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which involves a machine attached to a mask that helps regulate your breathing as you sleep. Here’s what you need to know about choosing a mask that’s right for you.

Choosing the Right Mask

There are three types of sleep apnea:

  • In obstructive sleep apnea, your breathing is physically blocked by collapsed muscles in your airway or mouth. 
  • In central sleep apnea, there's a problem with the brain signals that control breathing. 
  • In mixed sleep apnea, both obstructive and central sleep apnea are present. 

CPAP machines with sleep apnea masks are typically prescribed for obstructive sleep apnea. These devices raise the air pressure in your throat, which keeps your airways open and helps you breathe throughout the night. 

Since everyone’s scenario is different, there are different types of sleep apnea masks.

“There are three main types of masks: full-face, nasal masks, and nasal pillow masks,” Alex Savy, Certified Sleep Science Coach and Founder of SleepingOcean, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

Full Face Masks

“Full-face masks cover both the mouth and the nose, so they can be pretty bulky. They can be difficult to use when lying on the side, so this type is typically recommended for back sleepers,” Savy says.

Full-face masks are great for people who either breathe through their mouth or require higher pressure CPAP settings, according to the American Association of Sleep Technologists.

Nasal Masks

The American Association of Sleep Technologists notes that nasal masks typically extend from the nose bridge to the upper lip. These types of masks provide an indirect, more natural airflow to the airway via nasal passages. They're also good for those who need relatively higher air pressure settings. 

Nasal Pillow Masks

The nasal pillow mask fits at the nostrils to help you breathe through your nose. Nasal pillows are a good choice if you have facial hair that would interfere with other masks or if you feel claustrophobic easily, according to Mayo Clinic. 

Another factor to consider is how you sleep. If you sleep on your back, then a full-face mask would work best since any other position would affect the seal. If you sleep on your side or move around a lot in your sleep, then a nasal mask may be best.

Whichever mask you choose, it's important to diagnose and treat suspected sleep disorders like sleep apnea. In the absence of treatment, sleep apnea can increase your risk of developing serious health issues like cardiovascular problems and stroke. 

Think you may have a sleep disorder? Start your journey to more restful sleep TODAY.

Untreated sleep disorders can negatively affect your physical and emotional health. Sleep testing can help you get the answers you need to receive the treatment you deserve. WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.