When you have sleep apnea, you don’t just want equipment that will ensure that you don’t stop breathing in the middle of the night. You want equipment that will help you get a comfortable, peaceful night’s sleep. One of the biggest initial objections to sleeping with a CPAP machine is that the mask is uncomfortable: the air flow is too high, the mask creates a feeling of claustrophobia, or the mask simply isn’t the right size or style. By choosing the right mask for your needs, you can get a great night’s sleep and enjoy all the health benefits of using a CPAP machine.
Why You Need Your CPAP Machine
CPAP machines are typically used by individuals with sleep apnea. It is estimated that more than 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea—and an estimated 80% of those cases go undiagnosed. If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, the good news is that you’re able to get the help you need to improve your health and get a better night’s sleep. CPAP machines are designed to treat several key symptoms associated with obstructive sleep apnea, which causes you to repeatedly stop and start breathing during sleep as the muscles in your throat relax and block your airway. While this might not seem like it’s doing anything more than upsetting your sleep, over time, obstructive sleep apnea can cause a number of other problems, including:
- High blood pressure, also known as hypertension
- Congestive heart failure
- Heart arrhythmia, including atrial fibrillation
- Increased risk of stroke
Many people may write these symptoms off as being a comparatively low risk. After all, they’re healthy enough. Maybe they’ll deal with those problems later. If you’ve been putting off treating your sleep apnea, however, you may start to recognize some of these other common symptoms.
- Increased memory loss
- Regular fatigue
- Mood swings or changes during the day, especially depression and irritability
- Decreased libido
Wearing your CPAP every night will help control these symptoms and offer a number of overall health benefits. If you have a prescription for this common medical device from your doctor, you can start feeling better in anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. If you are having problems adjusting, don’t give up! Keep working with your doctor to find a solution that will work for you.
Choosing the Right Mask
When you’re adjusting to your CPAP machine, one of the most important elements is choosing the mask that’s the right fit for you. You want a mask that fits properly. It should be close to your face, with no gaps that could cause the positive pressure to escape. Since you’ll be sleeping in the mask, it’s also critical that it’s comfortable.
Choosing the right mask will make a big difference in the overall quality of your sleep and your ability to get comfortable at night. There’s not a one-size-fits-all perfect mask for your CPAP machine; however, you’ll quickly discover that many masks have defining factors that will help determine how effective they will be for you.
- Think about your sleeping position. Do you often toss and turn at night, struggling to get comfortable in one position, or do you sleep the same way every night? Are you usually a back or side sleeper? It’s important to choose a mask that will allow you to get a good fit in your preferred sleeping position, with no leaks around your mask. Full-face masks, for example, may work best for individuals who typically sleep on their backs at night.
- Consider what you do before bed. Do you need to be able to wear glasses before bed? What about watching tv or reading before you settle down for the night? A mask that can be worn while you’re participating in your preferred bedtime activities will prevent you from forgetting about it as you fall into bed.
- Think about how you breathe at night. Do you suffer from a chronic stuffy nose that often leads to you breathing through your mouth? Do you fall into an open-mouthed sleeping position on a regular basis? Make sure you know how you’re likely to breathe at night to get the most effective masks possible.
- How active are you at night? If you regularly toss and turn or change position frequently throughout the night, you’ll need a mask that is designed to stay tightly in place. A more secure mask will reduce your odds of leaks and make you more comfortable.
- Consider the durability of your mask. A mask with replaceable cushions, for example, may allow for longer use than a mask that lacks this feature.
- Let your doctor know about any other concerns. If you struggle with claustrophobia or are uncomfortable with things touching certain areas of your face, it’s important to consider this when choosing your mask.
Three Types of Masks
There are three key types of masks associated with CPAP machines: nasal pillows, nasal masks, and full face masks.
1. Nasal pillows are designed to be lightweight and comfortable. They have a minimal amount of material, which can be more comfortable for individuals who suffer from anxiety or claustrophobia related to their masks. Nasal pillows don’t have a lot of material to get in the way at night, making them more comfortable for individuals who often toss and turn. They interfere less with the field of vision and make it easier to read, watch television, or engage in other activities before sleep.
2. Nasal masks like Contour Nasal Masks by Tri-Anim Health provide less direct airflow, which may be more comfortable for some users than the direct delivery of the nasal pillow. They are also more appropriate for sleep apnea sufferers who require higher airflow. Suction from the nasal mask can help keep it in place if you move around a lot while you’re asleep.
3. Full face masks like the Performatrak Mask by Tri-Anim Health often work more effectively for individuals who are chronic mouth-breathers at night. They work best for patients with frequent cold or allergy symptoms that cause congestion and difficulty breathing through the nose. Full-face masks are also more comfortable for patients who require high airflow since they spread it out over more surface area than nasal masks.
Check Your Fit
Once your mask comes in, you’ll want to be sure that it fits properly. Check these factors to be sure that you’re getting a great fit from your mask.
- Straps should be reasonably tight to help prevent pressurized air from escaping. If they’re too loose, you may struggle to get the pressure you need for a good night’s sleep.
- Make sure that straps aren’t too tight! This can cause puckering or moving, which will result in pressurized air escaping just like if the straps were too loose.
- If you breathe through your mouth and are opting for a nasal mask alone, consider opting for a chin strap to help keep your mouth closed.
- Consider headgear that comes with quick-release clips. These clips not only allow you to get out of your mask quickly, but they also provide convenience, since you won’t have to re-adjust your straps every night.
The mask you choose and how it fits can make a big difference in the success of your CPAP therapy. Not only will the mask’s fit influence how air is delivered to maintain the positive pressure you need, but your comfort in the mask will also help determine whether or not you’ll actually wear the mask at night. If you’re not compliant with your therapy, it can’t provide you with the great health benefits you’re hoping for.
Are you ready to pick out the mask that’s right for you, but still have some questions? Contact us today to learn more.