Updated January 9, 2023
Compliance is the key to effective therapy for sleep apnea, and the mask you choose plays a big role in your success. While there are several types of CPAP masks, all with different styles and fits, each is designed to create a good seal around your mouth, nose, or both to deliver consistent therapy throughout the night. In this guide, we'll walk through some of the most common CPAP mask options to help you differentiate between them and determine which might be best for you needs. The different CPAP masks we'll cover are listed below. Click one to learn more about it or keep reading to see the full list.
Possibly the most common of the six CPAP mask styles, especially for first-time users, CPAP nasal masks cover only your nose, usually with a triangular-shaped cushion made of foam or silicone. To create a secure fit and a strong seal for airflow, older versions covered your entire nose and often had a forehead pad for support which made wearing glasses or watching TV difficult. However, newer styles of nasal masks cover less of your face and are more successful at creating a good seal with great comfort. The most common problem with nasal masks is caused when users open their mouths at night, resulting in a loss of therapy pressure and a dry mouth in the morning. A chin strap (thick neoprene or fabric) can help to remind the user to keep their mouth closed. However, it will not prevent mouth opening entirely, so the key is to "retrain" your body to sleep with your mouth closed. This can take some time but is possible.
Considered a more traditional mask style, CPAP full face masks cover both your nose and mouth, typically resting across your nose, cheeks, and chin. They're secured with straps going around your head both above and below your ears to create a good seal for airflow. Some newer full face masks have fewer pressure points and sit below the nose and over the mouth which resolves the issues with nose bridge pressure sores.
The smallest and least obtrusive of all sleep apnea mask types, nasal pillow CPAP masks have two cushions that rest slightly in and seal against your nostrils to create a seal and deliver air into your nose. Since this can be a sensitive area, the model you choose will likely come down to comfort. Most styles are secured by straps running above and below your ears, leaving the forehead unobstructed.
In addition, a study published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that nasal CPAP masks are an effective option even for those who require high pressures as part of their therapy. This combination of size, weight, price, and capability make nasal pillow masks among the most popular.
A combination of a full face mask and nasal pillow mask, hybrid CPAP masks cover your mouth and create a seal around your nose with the same cushion design featured in nasal pillow masks. The largest benefit of this mask type is that it doesn't require any supports across your forehead, offering a less obstructed line of sight, greater flexibility, and a lighter feel. Great for back sleepers, hybrid CPAP masks are helpful if you alternate between breathing through your mouth and nose during the night.
Bypassing your nose and covering only your mouth, oral CPAP masks are designed specifically for mouth breathers and anyone who has ongoing allergies or nasal congestion. Nose plugs are typically used to prevent pressure leaks from your nostrils. Like hybrid masks, the smaller design allows more visual freedom for watching TV, reading, and using your phone before bed.
If you struggle with pressure loss or discomfort when using other sleep apnea mask options, a CPAP total face mask might be the right solution. Covering the entire face, including the eyes, these masks are secured with straps along your jaw and the side of your head, much like a firefighter mask. Pressure leak, especially around the eyes, is common with other types of masks. Total face masks will have air blowing on your eyes but provides a more even distribution of air and contact points on the face to reduce discomfort.
While there are several different CPAP mask styles to choose from, the right one for you depends on a variety of factors, including your sleeping position, how you breathe at night, and more. In my experience, most people have the best success starting with a full face mask to adjust to CPAP therapy, but it's common to transition to a nasal or nasal pillow mask over time as your body adapts to having enough air and less obstruction. We recommend working with your doctor or CPAP provider to identify a mask that fits comfortably and provides a strong seal to encourage therapy compliance and effectiveness. Keep in mind that an optimal humidity level is crucial to comfort and therapy compliance as well. If you have any questions about the masks discussed above or any of our other products, our customer service team will be happy to assist you.