Updated at: 08-04-2022 - By: Jane Brody

Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that affects millions of Americans, many of whom use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to treat their condition. CPAP treatment necessitates the use of a mask, thus many people believe that CPAP users must sleep on their backs because a mask is too heavy to allow them to comfortably sleep on their sides or stomachs. However, CPAP masks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and some are more cumbersome than others. Even though some people have to use one sort of mask, others can select a mask based on their preferred sleeping position.

There are millions of people in the United States who suffer from sleep apnea, which is a respiratory ailment that requires treatment with a CPAP machine. CPAP treatment necessitates the use of a mask, thus many people believe CPAP users must sleep on their back since a mask is too bulky to allow them to comfortably sleep on their side or stomach. Some CPAP masks are bulkier than others, but this isn’t a universal problem. According to their desired sleeping position, CPAP users can choose a different mask than those who must use a specific mask type.

How does CPAP work?

For those with obstructive sleep apnea, the American Lung Association recommends CPAP as an effective therapy option.

How to Choose a CPAP Mask Based On Your Sleep Position | Sleep Foundation

While a person sleeps, they must wear a mask that is connected to a machine that pumps air into their lungs. The mask is held in place by straps.

The use of a CPAP machine helps to maintain a constant air supply to the lungs. The device’s air pressure maintains the airway’s openness and prevents it from contracting.

Sleep apnea cannot be cured with a CPAP machine. They help alleviate symptoms, but they don’t address the underlying issue.

Medical supply firms typically sell CPAP machines and accessories.

People with the following conditions may not be able to benefit from CPAP therapy, according to a 2020 article by Trusted Source:

  • anxiety
  • Coma patients and those who can’t breathe on their own
  • scalds on the face
  • surgery on the face, throat or stomach of persons who are healing
  • feeling sick to one’s stomach

What are the different types of CPAP masks?

Full-face CPAP masks, CPAP nasal masks, and CPAP nasal pillows are the three major types of CPAP masks.

Full-face CPAP mask

There are straps that hold the full-face CPAP mask in place over your mouth, nose, and mouth. People who prefer to breathe via their mouths are best served by this sort of mask, which is the most cumbersome.

CPAP nasal mask

The plastic shell of a CPAP nasal mask is designed to fit snugly over your nose. You may sleep in practically any position you like with this brace because it’s strapped to your body securely.

CPAP nasal pillow

Nasal pillows for CPAP use just cover the nostrils. For those with sensitive skin or a lot of facial hair, this mask is great. If you have claustrophobia, a CPAP nasal pillow could help you sleep better.

What are some of the factors that affect the fit of a CPAP mask?

The following things can have an impact on how well your CPAP mask fits:

  • Your nose’s breadth and length
  • Your cranium’s size, shape, and circumference.
  • So, you’ve got a beard? (and the amount)
  • If you have dentures, you’ll want to read this.
  • Using your nose or mouth as a method of inhalation
  • The way you lie down at night
  • The straps, mask, and headpiece are all composed of the same material (i.e. plastic, silicone)

It’s also critical to think about how much you move while you’re asleep. For people who sleep on their stomachs, a mask that doesn’t leak or compromise airflow is essential.

How to Choose a CPAP Mask Based On Your Sleep Position

Full-face, nasal, and nasal cushion masks are the most commonly used CPAP devices. The most cumbersome masks are full-face, which cover the mouth and nose. Nasal masks, on the other hand, simply cover the nose. Nasal pillow masks cover only the nostrils and have no hard shell, making them the least intrusive option.

The tight seal required by CPAP masks means that sleeping in a position that puts pressure on the mask is more than just a pain – it can also reduce the effectiveness of your treatment. The headgear on a CPAP mask can also disrupt sleep, especially if it has stiff anchor straps or hard plastic buckles. Consider both the mask’s footprint — its length, width, and depth — and the location of its headpiece on your face when picking a CPAP mask. Ultimately, the goal is to find a mask that is both effective and comfortable.

CPAP Masks for Side Sleepers

When you sleep on your side, gravity has less of an impact on your airway than it does when you sleep on your back or stomach, which is why it’s one of the greatest positions for treating sleep apnea. Unfortunately, finding a CPAP mask that works well for side sleepers is not always easy.

For those who sleep on their side, a nasal pillow mask is an excellent solution because its low profile rests higher than the pillow itself. Nasal pillow masks are usually able to maintain a seal even if a person sleeps on their side. Side sleepers might also try nasal masks, which cover the entire or part of the nose. The better models have comfortable and adjustable headgear, as well as excellent seals. However, side sleepers may still need a CPAP-friendly cushion in order to accommodate the heaviness of even a nasal mask despite these qualities.

CPAP Masks for Back Sleepers

For CPAP users who like to sleep on their backs, this position allows them to wear any type of mask, including full-face masks. Gravity can trigger airway collapse when you sleep on your back, therefore it’s not the best posture for people who wear a CPAP mask. A good face mask should be able to meet your demands if your doctor is aware that you sleep on your back and hasn’t urged you to modify your sleeping posture. Dislodging your mask is also more difficult in this position, however certain back sleepers may have trouble with single-strap headgear.

CPAP Masks for Stomach Sleepers

People who sleep on their stomachs have special considerations when selecting a CPAP mask because it is a rather uncommon sleeping posture. Most masks press against the face in this position, resulting in irritation and frequent air leaks. If your mask is too large, it may pull your head into an uncomfortable posture, putting strain on your neck and maybe resulting in pain or stiffness the following day.

Most people are unable to sleep on their stomachs unless they use a nasal pillow mask because of these issues. Even if you sleep on your back, you won’t feel any discomfort because to the low profile of the nasal pillows. However, even those who wear a nasal pillow mask should check that the cushion itself can accept the mask before using it. Depending on your position and the firmness of your pillow, some masks may also include tubes positioned along the temples, which may hinder air flow.

Best CPAP Masks for the Side Sleeper

Side sleepers should use nasal pillows and nasal CPAP masks since they allow for movement and flexibility while also minimizing facial contact. Due to a smaller footprint using a nasal pillow or nasal mask will help reduce mask shifts and help you maintain a secure seal. If you sleep on your side and breathe through your mouth, consider using a nasal pillow or nasal mask with a chinstrap or Somnifix to keep you from snoring.

How to Choose a CPAP Mask Based On Your Sleep Position | Sleep Foundation

To accommodate side sleepers, the nasal CPAP mask is the best option because it allows for movement and flexibility while also minimizing facial contact. It is easier to keep your mask in place with a nasal cushion or nasal mask because they have a smaller footprint. A chinstrap, a nasal cushion, or a nasal mask can be used to keep you from breathing through your mouth while you sleep if you sleep on your side.

Best CPAP Mask for the Fetal Position

The fetal position is exactly what you’d expect it to look like, with your knees brought in close to your chest. A flexible CPAP mask is typically required for fetal sleepers. Masks with soft-touch buckles and textile surfaces are excellent choices for the fetal position, as are masks that go under the nose rather than over.

As you move from side to side, the flexible chamber of the Swift FX Nasal Pillow CPAP Mask keeps the mask securely in place. The dual-wall flaps on the nasal pillows give support and comfort for your nose while you sleep. This mask has a low-profile design, which means you’ll be able to walk around more freely at night because you won’t be able to see it.

Best CPAP Mask for the Log Position

Lie on your side with arms at your sides in the log posture. Log sleepers, like fetal sleepers, necessitate a soft mask that won’t fall out of place under the weight of a pillow. While this position may be ideal for sleeping, it’s important to keep in mind that additional pressure may be imposed on the face due to the lower position of the arms. In light of this, the requirement for a soft nose mask with no rough surfaces that could irritate or leak during sleep is reinforced.

The AirFit P10 Nasal Pillow Mask has a simple design and is light and comfortable to wear. With no velcro tabs or clips, the QuickFit elastic headgear ensures a snug fit. It’s less obstructive than traditional mask equipment, and it helps log sleepers avoid facial markings.

Best CPAP Mask for the Yearner Position

With your arms stretched in front of you, you’ll be lying on your side with your head propped up on a pillow. The side of your face may be compressed if you sleep in this position. It is, however, possible to alleviate this pressure by sleeping with one’s arms out in front. The yearner can use any mask that works well in the fetal position or log.

The SleepWeaver Advance Small Soft Cloth Nasal Mask is made out of cloth, making it an ideal choice for the yearner sleepers who need a soft nasal mask. The cushion inflates with air, helping maintain a seal even when it comes into contact with your pillow. The lightweight and breathable fabric is comfortable and helps reduce facial marks, making it an ideal choice for side sleepers.

Best CPAP Masks for the Back Sleeper

A soft cloth nasal mask like the SleepWeaver Advance Small Soft Cloth Nasal Mask is perfect for those who prefer to sleep with their nose covered. To provide a tight fit, the cushion is filled with air and inflates as needed. The breathable and lightweight fabric is great for those who sleep on their sides, as it reduces the risk of face marks.

Best CPAP Mask for the Soldier Position

Sleep on your back with your arms rigidly extended and parallel to your legs in this posture. Back sleepers should order a mask that is designed to keep the headgear system away from the back of their heads. To avoid stumbling over straps, buckles, or any other annoyance, it’s best to sleep on top of a mattress.

Soldier sleepers may benefit from either the ComfortGel Blue Nasal or Full Face Mask, depending on their specific requirements.

The headgear is attached to the top of the head, decreasing the risk of irritation from the straps when sleeping on your back. Soldiers may easily modify the fit of their ComfortGel forehead pad with the use of a stability selector that comes with the pad. Keeping your head raised while sleeping is critical for those with sleep apnea who serve in the military.

Best CPAP Mask for the Starfish Position

The starfish stance, which requires reclining on your back with your arms stretched up around a cushion, is taken by only one in every twenty persons. Any back-sleeping mask can be used by starfish sleepers. Keep in mind that because starfish sleepers like to move their arms around while they sleep, choosing a mask that is as simple as possible can help prevent tangles in the wee hours.

The DreamWear Nasal Mask, like the ComfortGel, has a headband that secures to the top of the head. This position reduces mask tugging by placing CPAP hose above the starfish sleeper’s head.

The back of the straps are cushioned to alleviate any discomfort that starfish sleepers may experience while maintaining a secure seal. It’s easy for air to flow through the DreamWear cushion thanks to the frame’s design. If the other side is obstructed, air can only flow through one side of the frame.

Best Masks for the Stomach Sleeper

When used in conjunction with a CPAP cushion, a nasal pillow mask with minimum contact points and a top-of-head hose connection is perfect for stomach sleepers. Your mask and tubing might rest more comfortably on a CPAP pillow’s indents or gaps. For people who sleep on their stomachs and breathe via their mouth, consider utilizing Somnifix or a nasal pillow.

Best CPAP Masks for the Freefall Position

Five to seven percent of the public sleeps on their stomach while grasping their pillow with both hands. Though not a lot of people sleep on their stomachs, there are some CPAP masks explicitly designed for stomach sleepers. Inflates on its own and often has a basic design for improved comfort are some of the options. A top-quality gel or memory foam pillow can also help stomach sleepers find a comfortable position in which to rest.

As many as five to seven percent of the population sleeps on their stomachs while holding onto their pillows with both of their hands. Despite the fact that few individuals sleep on their stomachs, there are CPAP masks specifically made for this type of sleeper. Inflates on its own and often has a basic design for improved comfort are some of the options. A top-quality gel or memory foam pillow can also help stomach sleepers find a comfortable position in which to rest.

5% to 7% of the population sleeps on their stomachs with both hands on their pillow. There are CPAP masks specifically developed for stomach sleepers, despite the fact that few people do so. As an alternative, you might choose a nasal cushion mask that is self-inflating and designed for maximum comfort. A top-quality gel or memory foam pillow can also help stomach sleepers find a comfortable posture in which to rest.

Tips for Choosing the Right CPAP Mask

At the beginning, I had to travel to a medical supply store to get the CPAP machine and experiment on various masks to find the one that worked best for me.

I failed to consider one drawback of the selection procedure. For the sake of experimentation, I was seated in a chair and donning various masks to determine which one was the most comfortable. It wasn’t that they weren’t made to be comfortable, because they are.

When I put the mask on, I had no idea how it would effect my sleep. Having a location to test the mask in my sleep posture would have been ideal.

Nasal pillow mask for stomach and side sleepers

As a stomach sleeper, I was able to select the mask that suited best for my needs. For those who have facial hair and difficulty keeping a seal, this mask is ideal. For stomach and side sleepers, I believe this is the greatest mask; however, for back sleepers, I believe it is less effective.

In order to maintain a tight seal while lying on your back, the nasal pillow does not have the best strap support around your head. The hose must be appropriately positioned so that it does not tug on the mask, causing discomfort and perhaps causing the seal to break. As a result, this mask is best suited for those who sleep on their side or stomach. When you sleep with the mask on your pillow, all of the tension is lifted off of your face.

Full-face mask for back sleepers

Because the hose is not resting on the pillow, I would recommend a full-face mask if you sleep on your back, as it provides more support for the mask when it is being pulled. For the reasons I’ve indicated, this is not a mask I’d want to wear when lying on my back. If you do, I’m not sure how this would work for you.

What is a CPAP machine? It can't replace a ventilator without being modified

What about claustrophobia?

The final aspect that many of us overlook is the claustrophobia of those who suffer from it. This makes it extremely difficult to locate a suitable mask and is a major factor in many people’s decision not to use a CPAP. In my opinion, there are no suitable masks for the vast majority of persons suffering from claustrophobia.

An innovator or not, working on this project is an excellent way to make money. One option I can think of is seeing a doctor about perhaps taking medication to assist alleviate your anxiousness. With the CPAP, I believe that it is more beneficial than taking an anxiety medication or a sleep aid to help you get to sleep.

Still having trouble? Ask for help

Hope this helps you find a mask that works for you or provides you some ideas on how to improve your sleep apnea treatment options. I always recommend that you use a CPAP since it is likely to be the best option for you and to reduce your risk of consequences from sleep apnea.

If you’re having problems with your CPAP mask or equipment, talk to your doctor to see if you may receive some assistance.

Where Can You Purchase CPAP Masks?

CPAP masks, like CPAP machines, require a prescription. Despite this, there are multiple options for where to buy your CPAP mask. Online retailers do still require a prescription, which they usually check by having you upload or fax them the prescription. Once your prescription is approved, you will be able to make your purchase.

As with CPAP devices, you’ll need a prescription for a CPAP mask. Despite this, there are a variety of places to purchase a CPAP mask online. Despite the ease of shopping online, you’ll still need to provide a prescription, which you may either upload or fax to the vendor. Your purchase will be possible once your prescription has been approved by your doctor.

Using a CPAP Pillow for Better Mask Fit

You must follow the advise of your sleep specialist if you want to use any of the many different kinds of CPAP masks available. A CPAP cushion may be able to help you get a good night’s sleep even if you have to wear a mask. Even if you sleep on your side, these pillows have a unique design that makes it easier to wear a mask, even a larger one. Additionally, some models may provide better cervical support to prevent mask dislodging or resulting in neck pain.

How do I make sure my CPAP mask fits?

The sizing of CPAP masks varies widely because there is no common sizing chart. In spite of this, most masks come with adjustable straps and interchangeable cushion sizes.

Take a few minutes to play with with your new CPAP mask and see whether it works for you in various settings. Try lying on your stomach, back, or side to see what works best for you. Then, get up and do the same. While shifting positions, keep the CPAP machine running and the mask securely in place to avoid leaks. To avoid headaches, adjust the straps if there are noticeable pressure marks on the mask after removal.

The manufacturer’s directions should be followed when adjusting your CPAP mask. Make an appointment with your primary care physician if you still have questions or are concerned that your mask does not fit properly. It is possible to learn how to get a great fit from them, as well as get advice on cleaning and preventive upkeep.

Lifestyle changes and home remedies

Cpap therapy, while essential for treating sleep apnoea, does not eliminate the problem.

You should also consider the following lifestyle adjustments in addition to CPAP therapy:

  • slimming down
  • Smoking cessation
  • an unwillingness to lie on one’s back while trying to sleep
  • drinking alcohol and other sedatives should be avoided at all costs

People with mild sleep apnea may be able to use mandibular advancement (MA) devices instead of CPAP machines, according to a report in Neurology Clinical PracticeTrusted Source.

In order to prevent airway obstruction, an MA is designed to fit inside a person’s mouth and shift the jaw forward.

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