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How to Pick Your CPAP Mask Based on Sleep Position

If you’ve been prescribed a CPAP machine by your healthcare provider for sleep apnea, the next step is choosing what mask to wear. Along with input from your doctor based on your breathing and air pressure needs, there are other factors to consider in your CPAP mask selection, specifically your sleep position.

Your sleeping style can influence the type of mask you should get because different masks suit certain positions better than others. We’ll dive into the types of masks that work for certain sleep positions, along with tips on how you can ensure an optimal fit for the best possible treatment.

Best CPAP Masks for Your Sleep Position

CPAP mask styles1 include nasal pillows, nasal masks, full face masks, and hybrids. Nasal pillows are the least intrusive, consisting of a compact mask that sits at the base of the nose with small inserts that go into the nostrils to create a seal. Nasal masks, on the other hand, are slightly bulkier, utilizing a small mask that seals around the entire nose 

Full-face CPAP masks are the largest of the main mask types. These masks cover the nose and mouth. Meanwhile, hybrid CPAP masks cover the mouth, but at the nose, have more of a nasal pillow type of design.

Ultimately, the type of CPAP mask you need will depend on your doctor’s recommendation since they are also taking into account your air pressure needs and breathing patterns. However, it’s worth bringing up your sleep position since they may also be factored in.

Explore: Best CPAP Masks

CPAP Masks for Side Sleepers

Side sleeping is considered a helpful position for obstructive sleep apnea2 because it helps prevent the airway from collapsing. However, finding a mask to suit this position can be trickier since the mask could move when pressed against the pillow, causing air leaks that can compromise treatment efficacy3.

Nasal pillows and nasal masks are considered better for side sleepers4. In the case of nasal pillows, they are helpful because they are very compact to move with you and can reduce the risk of uncomfortable pressure points on the face from pushing against the pillow. Although slightly bulkier than nasal pillows, nasal masks are still smaller than full face masks and less likely to dislodge.

Although full face masks may be cumbersome for side sleepers, those who require something that delivers air to the mouth should look for a minimalist design. In this case, a hybrid might be helpful since the nose part of the mask is smaller.

Discover the Best CPAP Masks for Side Sleepers here.

CPAP Masks for Back Sleepers

Back sleeping is considered the worst position for obstructive sleep apnea because the airway is more likely to narrow or become blocked5. However, the benefit of back sleeping is that it’s compatible with all types of CPAP masks since sleeping in this position is less likely to dislodge the mask and cause leaks. This gives CPAP patients more flexibility in choosing their mask design.

CPAP Masks for Stomach Sleepers

Similar to side sleeping, lying on your stomach is also helpful for keeping the airway open.2 However, wearing a CPAP mask in this position is going to be more of a challenge. 

For example, larger mask styles may cause discomfort for stomach sleepers. Nasal pillows are typically a good fit for stomach sleepers since they’re the least obtrusive. 

CPAP Masks for Combination Sleepers

Combination sleepers need a mask that suits multiple sleeping positions and allows freedom of movement. Nasal pillows are the best choice as they’re the smallest and least bulky option. However, if you move around a lot in the same night, a nasal mask still gives you flexibility but may stay intact better. In the case of masks for mouth breathers, a hybrid may be preferred since it’s less bulky compared to the full face design. 

Tips for a Better CPAP Mask Fit 

Once you have decided on the best mask for your preferred sleeping position, there are additional steps you can take to further increase your comfort.

  • Consider your facial hair – Nasal pillows are recommended for those with facial hair6 as beards and mustaches can affect a nasal or oronasal mask’s ability to seal properly against the skin. Trimming your facial hair can also help. You can improve the seal with reusable or disposable liners that sit between the mask cushion and your skin. Find the best CPAP masks for beards here.
  • Barrier cream – Applying a specialized barrier cream before putting on your mask can help reduce skin irritation and create a better seal by preventing the mask from sliding around.3 
  • Use a CPAP-friendly pillow – If your pillow is causing discomfort while using CPAP, you can try using a pillow for sleep apnea. These are pillows that have been specifically designed for CPAP users, some with ergonomic cutouts that better allow for masks and tubing.
  • Make adjustments – Taking time to ensure your mask fits properly is key. The mask shouldn’t feel too tight or too loose. Most CPAP masks have adjustable straps to help modify the feel.
  • Practice wearing it – Practice putting the mask on in front of the mirror before lying down in your usual sleeping position. Then, turn the machine on to check for air leaks – if you can feel air blowing into your eyes or skin outside the mask, the mask needs adjusting.

How to Purchase a CPAP Mask 

The FDA considers CPAP machines a class II medical device7, so you need a prescription to buy one. This rule also extends to CPAP mask purchases.

Once it’s been confirmed you have sleep apnea and may benefit from CPAP, your health provider will issue a CPAP machine prescription, which may include a suggested mask style. You can then choose to purchase directly from a supplier or through your insurer. You can purchase a mask online – some stores offer AI mask fitting technology – or visit a brick-and-mortar store to try styles on.

Learn More: CPAP Titration Study and Does Insurance Cover CPAPs?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best position to sleep in with a CPAP mask?

Sleeping on your back is considered the best position while wearing a CPAP mask; it’s compatible with all types of masks because there’s less interference from your pillow.

Can you sleep on your side with a full face CPAP mask?

Side sleeping with a full face mask isn’t ideal because pillows are more likely to shift this bulkier style of mask, potentially causing air leaks, affecting treatment efficacy, and creating pressure marks. However, some manufacturers have made full face masks that are more compatible with side sleepers thanks to a more compact design.

Does a CPAP pillow make it easier to sleep on my side?

CPAP pillows are pillows that have been specifically designed to accommodate CPAP users, often with cutouts that allow masks and tubing to sit comfortably. There are CPAP pillows available that have been tailor-made for side sleepers, which can help make sleeping with a CPAP mask easier.

Lisa Bowman

Lisa Bowman


About Author

Lisa is a content writer for Sleep Advisor, which combines two of her greatest passions – writing and sleeping. She can also be found writing about fitness, sustainability and vegan food.

Combination Sleeper


  1. Slide show: Which CPAP masks are best for you?” Mayo Clinic. Last modified March 3, 2023.
  2. “Choosing the Best Sleep Position”. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Webpage accessed January 11, 2024.
  3. Ghadiri, Maliheh., Grunstein, Ronald R. “Clinical side effects of continuous positive airway pressure in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea”. Respirology. 2020.
  4. “Which CPAP mask is best for side sleepers?” ResMed. Webpage accessed November 26, 2023.
  5. “Obstructive sleep apnea – adults”. Medline Plus. Last modified January 9, 2023.
  6. “Slide show: Which CPAP masks are best for you?: Nasal pillow mask”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified March 3, 2023. 
  7. “Medical Devices; Anesthesiology Devices; Classification of the Positive Airway Pressure Delivery System”. Federal Register. 2018.