CPAP Masks

If you suffer from sleep apnea then a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask and headgear is something that may be hugely beneficial for you.  However, every face is a different shape so there is a range of different masks available to fit everyone.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where the sleeper’s breathing is interrupted when they are asleep.  Suffers that aren’t treating the condition can actually stop breathing during the sleep, sometimes even hundreds of time per night and this means that the brain and the rest of the body doesn’t get enough oxygen.

There are two main types: Obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.  OSA is the more common of the two where the condition is caused by a blockage of the airways, normally the soft tissues around the back of the throat, which collapses during sleep.

The other version of the condition is where the airways aren’t blocked but is where the brain stops signalling the muscles to breathe due to an instability in the respiratory control centre.

Sleep apnea can affect anyone regardless of age and gender but there are certain factors that can increase the risk.  These include:

  • Male
  • Overweight
  • Over the age of 40
  • Having a large neck size – greater than 17 inches in men and 16 inches in women
  • Having either large tonsils, a large tongue or a small jaw bone
  • Family history of the condition
  • Gastoesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Nasal obstruction caused by allergies, sinus problems or a deviated septum

If the condition isn’t treated, problems that can manifest include higher blood pressure, stroke, heart failure or an irregular heartbeat, diabetes and depression.  If someone suffers with a condition such as ADHD, sleep apnea can also make this worse.

Different types

Nasal pillows work by supply air pressure below the nose and have side straps to keep the mask in place.  They are idea for people who feel claustrophobic with a full mask covering their face or if you wear glasses.  They are also great if you need to wear the mask but still want to be able to read a book or watch the TV.

A small mask called a cushion is another means where there is a front mount that contains the nosepiece and can be adjusted upwards and downwards.  A ball cap style strap is used to keep the mask in place.  Again, this is a preferred mask for people who find the whole mask too claustrophobic and is also ideal for people who sleep on their side as there are no side straps or those who sleep on their abdomen.  It also allows the option of using a pillow or mask interface.

A mask using a foam piece around the nasal mask is another option where this foam seals the mask to the face and side straps keep it in place.  This is often used when the doctor has prescribed a high-pressure setting due to the seal made by the foam, which doesn’t put too much pressure on the face.  It is also a good set up for people that move around a lot in the sleep as the headgear is flexible because of the foam and there are different ways to attach the straps.

A mask that is similar but doesn’t use the foam is one that suctions to your face using the air pressure and again, side straps hold it in place.  This is good for the same reasons, people that move around a lot or if a high air pressure is needed.  However, it doesn’t have the foam element that can cause skin irritation or discomfort.

The mask with the greatest coverage of the nose and mouth is the one used if you have a nasal obstruction or congestion that means you can’t breathe through your nose.  Alternatively, for people who breathe through their mouth at night no matter what they try to use will need this type of mask.  Often a humidity heater feature or a chin strap to keep the mouth closed may also be used.

Resmed QuattroTM Air Full Face Mask Assembly Kit

Full face maskMedium3 / 5***
ResMed MirageTM SoftGel nasal mask frame system with large wide cushion - no headgear

Gel nasal mask frameLarge3.6 / 5**
ResMed Mirage Vista Nasal Mask Frame System (Standard)

Nasal maskDeep4.4 / 5**
Swift FX Replacement Nasal Pillow/cushion- LARGE

Nasal pillow/cushionSmall5 / 5*

When sleep apnea isn’t sleep apnea

The good news is there are a lot of conditions that people associate with sleep apnea that aren’t actually related to the condition.

One of these is snoring; while snoring can be a sign of the problem there is a big different between the snoring associated with sleep apnea and normal snoring.  This is down to the periods when the person stops breathing altogether than can last for between 10-30 seconds.  Sleep apnea also effects your sleep rhythms and leaves you feeling tired where normal snoring doesn’t.

Some people think that only older people get the condition and it is more common once you are over the age of 40 but it can affect people of any age and the condition does run in families.