CPAP Mask Types & Their Best Purpose
“Myth: One mask fits all.
Fact: Everyone’s face is unique. It’s important to find the mask that fits and works for you.”
Teofilo Lee-Chiong, MD, chief medical liaison, Philips Healthcare Solutions
We wrote before about CPAP face mask types in general and what might be the best fit for different kinds of CPAP therapies. In this article we want to focus more on what masks are the best for different types of needs, depending on the sleeping style, breathing style, CPAP therapy, type of face…and list our 2022. top masks for each of those categories.
Full Face CPAP Mask
Covers both nose and mouth and thus the name “full face mask”. This is the most common CPAP mask and usually, it is advertised as a "universal-fit" for any type of CPAP therapy. Many patients find it to be the most comfortable and practical, and it is a preferable choice for most CPAP users, especially beginners.
Pros: Although it is heavier and bulkier than other CPAP mask types, it does offer the best seal (with an exception for people with more facial hair) and it is suitable for both mouth and nose breathers.
Cons: The main issue with this mask comes from its bulkiness and size…it doesn’t allow too much motion or position changes during sleep. It is mostly suited for back sleepers. Also, since it covers a bigger area and has bigger contact with the face, it can be problematic for people who have easily irritated skin.
Breathing style: Any. Ideal solution for patients that are both mouth and nose breathers.
Sleeping style: Not suitable for side sleepers (with exception of using CPAP pillow)
CPAP air pressure: Any. This mask is the actual perfect solution in terms of pressure setting as it can be used for any setting.
Nasal CPAP Mask
Usually, with a similar design as the full face mask, just significantly smaller, nasal mask covers only the nose. Although limited only to nose breathers, their small size makes them a preferable choice, and these CPAP masks are being more popular recently since many opt in to use chin strap which keeps their mouth closed.
Pros: This type of mask is an ideal choice for people who breathe through the nose and like sleeping on the side or tossing and turning during sleep.
Cons: The downside of these masks is that it is difficult to use when having nasal congestion (so it’s a “no” for anyone who has frequent allergy issues), a nose injury, or a deviated septum.
Breathing Style: Nose breathing (with exception of patients who are combined breathers and use a chin strap to keep mouth close during sleep).
Sleeping Style: Any. The smaller size and position of this CPAP mask make it a perfect mask choice for patients who are side sleepers or active sleepers.
CPAP Air Pressure: Any. Although they fit only to the nose, these masks are held via mask straps and usually have a tight fit. However, patients with the higher air pressure setting should be aware that this pressure setting can in some cases force the mouth to open; in this case, the chin strap is the solution.
Nasal Pillow CPAP Mask
This mask is an upgraded solution to the nasal mask. Contrary to the previous 2 masks, the nasal pillow CPAP mask does not actually cover any part of the face. Instead, it sits right under the nose and in some cases even uses silicone pads that just slightly fit inside the nostrils. This type of mask is the lightest and the smallest type, and with the silicone gel or memory foam “pillow” that fits on the bottom of the nostrils, it is the most comfortable mask.
Pros: Main positive aspect of this mask type is its level of comfort when compared with other mask types. Also, it is the ideal solution for anyone with facial hair, as well as for those who like sleeping on the side.
Cons: This mask however is not an ideal choice for CPAP users who are prescribed with the higher pressure settings, or users with frequent nasal congestion, allergies, or a deviated septum.
Breathing Style: Since it is a nasal mask, it is suitable only for nose breathers (with exception of patients that use chinstrap).
Sleeping Style: Any. The lightest and smallest of all mask types, the nasal pillow CPAP mask allows the most freedom during sleep.
CPAP Air Pressure: Patients using this mask type are limited only to lower air pressure settings.
Oral CPAP Mask
Opposite to nasal masks, oral masks cover only the mouth. The oral CPAP mask is usually prescribed to patients that have deviated septum or similar nasal breathing issues, or to patients that for some reason cannot tolerate the full face mask.
Pros: A perfect solution for mouth breathers or patients that prefer minimalist design but for some reason cannot use nasal masks type.
Cons: Unlike a chin strap solution for nasal masks, an oral CPAP mask does not have a similar solution for patients that might combine breathing styles, so it is exclusively for mouth breathers.
Breathing Style: Mouth breathing only.
Sleeping Style: Preferably back sleeping, but acceptable for side sleeping as well.
CPAP Air Pressure: Any. Although, high-level air pressure setting patients might experience some issues with nasal air "leak".
Hybrid CPAP Mask
As suggested by its name, a hybrid mask is the combination (hybrid) of two mask types. Most often it is combining the full face mask and nasal pillow mask or in some cases even oral and nasal pillow mask. It's a solution for patients that cannot get used to the prescribed full face mask.
Pros: It covers less face area and has less skin contact than a full face mask, so it is a solution for patients with skin irritation issues or claustrophobic issues.
Cons: Although it doesn't cover the full face, it is still considered a bulkier and larger mask, and as such, it limits sleeping position and activity.
Breathing Style: Any. Same function as a full face mask.
Sleeping Style: In most cases, it is limiting sleeping position to back sleeping, although it is possible to use it as a side sleeper as well (especially with the CPAP pillow).
CPAP Air Pressure: Any.
Total Face CPAP Mask
This type of mask covers the full face from chin to forehead, covering the whole face (thus the name “total face”). These masks are prescribed only in some special cases of patients with facial irregularities when a proper mask seal cannot be obtained.
Pros: It fits its purpose in the above-mentioned special cases.
Cons: It is the largest and bulkiest mask and as such, it limits sleeping position and activity.
Breathing Style: Any.
Sleeping Style: The size and whole face coverage limit sleeping position exclusively to back sleeping.
CPAP Air Pressure: Any.