How Do Sleep Apnea Face Masks Work?

The key component to a CPAP system to treat sleep apnea is the mask. While the machine and other components are necessary, the right sleep apnea mask size and fit makes or breaks the effectiveness of your treatment. Masks only work when the system is properly connected and powered on, making them a part of the CPAP machine and not a stand-alone device. There are dental products that open the airways in mild sleep apnea cases, but CPAP machines with face masks have a better track record with chronic and severe apnea.

What Is A CPAP Mask?

The mask contains the flow of air, fitting tight against the face to direct it into the throat and lungs. The patient wears the mask all night, while the CPAP machine pushes air through the system that comfortably keeps airways open. There are a wide range of options in three different mask styles, including popular models like the Resmed Airfit P10.

How To Store Your CPAP Mask

There are a few ways to store your mask hygienically, and about a million ways to store it so it will not stay clean between uses. The first of the two main options is a dedicated storage bag where the mask can sit after being washed and thoroughly dried. It's important the storage bag completely covers the mask and closes relatively tightly.

The bag itself will need to be washed regularly, and nothing else can go in it with the mask. Another option is to make a CPAP nightstand with a dedicated storage shelf just for the mask after it has been cleaned, so nothing else comes into contact with it. Either way, the main goal is to avoid contaminating it by touching it with something dirty after a wash.

Which Mask Style Suits You?

Choosing the right mask style is most of the key to a comfortable fit. There may be slight design differences from one model to another within a style that help you find the most comfortable option, but the style dictates facial coverage and contact points, so it is the most important factor to most people. The major mask styles are:

  • Nasal CPAP masks fit to the approximate dimensions of the nose
  • Full face masks that cover the area from just below the eyes to the chin
  • Hybrid masks that mix levels of coverage to find ideal comfort for patients looking for another option

Most of the time, patients who report claustrophobia or milder forms of enclosure anxiety are the ones with the toughest choice for masks. It's counterintuitive to many, but the preferred choice for those patients is a full face mask because the fit leaves more space under the mask.

Each breath feels more like it comes from an open space as a result. For those who find full face masks too heavy or hot, the other two styles provide options that allow you to fine tune your comfort zone without breaking the routine that allows you to rest easily. Before buying a mask in a style that suits you, make sure you check the size chart, because the key measurements each mask's size is based on vary from one style to the next.

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