Once you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and have been prescribed a CPAP machine, you will need to shop for the most important part of the apparatus: the CPAP mask and headgear.
Talk to your physician about what features you will need in your CPAP mask and also with your insurance company to find out what they will pay for.
CPAP Mask Headgear
The CPAP mask, also called an interface, fits over your nose and is connected by tubing to the CPAP device. It is absolutely critical that the CPAP mask fit well. If it is uncomfortable then it will interfere with your sleep, and if the seal is not tight, you will not get the pressure you need to unblock your airway.
The headgear has adjustable straps to allow you to tighten it for a perfect fit. Adjust the straps so that they are snug enough for all sleeping positions, but not so tight they are uncomfortable. Once you have the right fit, most masks have quick release clips to allow you to remove the mask without having to re-tighten the straps each time.
Choose the correct size of CPAP mask for the best fit. Larger masks are more likely to leak so when in doubt, go with a smaller size.
Options for CPAP Masks
The standard CPAP mask is made of hard plastic with a soft, silicone seal that allows a tight, comfortable seal on the sleeper’s face. For people allergic to silicone, masks are also available that use soft rubber or vinyl. If neither of these suit you, there are numerous other options such as gel masks, masks with inflatable cushions, and masks made of soft, flexible plastic.
The typical nasal CPAP mask is designed for people who breathe through their noses at night. If you breathe through your mouth when you sleep, some headgear includes a chin strap to keep your mouth closed. Alternatively, you could opt for a CPAP full face mask which fits over both your nose and mouth.
There are still other air delivery options. Nasal pillows are small inflatable pieces inserted into the nostrils. Oversize cannulas also insert directly into the nostrils and require no headgear to hold them in place. Oral masks fit only over the mouth for those who mouth breathe at night. These masks offer a more streamlined design and are a good option for those who find nasal and full face masks too intrusive.
The CPAP Mask Hoses
CPAP hoses connect the mask to the CPAP machine and allow the air to flow. The hoses should be long enough that you can move comfortably in your sleep without pulling the machine off the nightstand. Some sleepers use longer hoses so that they do not have to take the mask off for a midnight trip to the bathroom, but longer hoses also have trouble maintaining the proper pressure, so be sure to discuss this with your doctor so your pressure can be adjusted if necessary.
The hoses should be draped over your headboard so they do not interfere with movement during sleep. If you have no headboard on your bed, try to find some other object that can hold the tubing in place during the night. Ensure that the hose is not kinked or squeezed shut.
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