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What Are the Different Kinds of CPAP Masks?

Research has found that, along with necessary lifestyle changes, CPAP therapy can be an effective treatment1 for sleep apnea symptoms. However, for CPAP therapy to have positive results, it must be consistently adhered to, and for some people, this might be more difficult. 

There are varying reasons why people aren’t consistent with their CPAP use – it may feel claustrophobic, could cause dry mouth or congestion2, or just be uncomfortable. Fortunately, many of these common complaints can be resolved by ensuring you have the right CPAP mask. 

CPAP masks come in a variety of shapes, styles, and sizes. Choosing the appropriate one for your face and sleep position could mean the difference between CPAP compliance and ineffective treatment. In this article, we’ll go over the various types of CPAP masks so you have a better understanding of what your options are.

Medical Disclaimer: You should seek the advice of your healthcare provider in determining the right type of CPAP mask for you and your sleep apnea needs.

What Is a CPAP Mask?

A CPAP machine consists of three essential components: the machine, the mask, and the tubing connecting the machine to the mask.  The mask may cover your nose and mouth, just your nose, or only the nostril area.

The machine takes in air, filters and pressurizes it, and then delivers it through the tube and into the CPAP mask. This continuous flow of air is meant to keep the airway open, helping those with sleep apnea maintain a consistent oxygen level through the night.2 

The mask itself consists of the mask frame (the part that holds the cushion and attaches to the headgear), the mask cushion or nasal pillows (the soft part that touches the face to create a good seal), and the mask headgear (the straps that securely attach the mask to the face).

View Our Guide: Best CPAP Masks


Popular CPAP Masks

The most common types of CPAP masks include the nasal pillow mask, the nasal mask, and the full-face CPAP mask.2 There are benefits to each of these, so it comes down to your specific needs and preferences.

Nasal Pillow CPAP Mask 

The nasal pillow CPAP mask3 is the smallest and least cumbersome of the mask types. It only covers the nostril area,  and delivers air pressure exclusively through the nose. Some nasal pillow CPAP masks fit over the nostrils, but most include small prongs that go slightly into the nose for more security and better airflow.2 

The mask stays securely attached to your face with headgear straps that go from both sides of the mask and around the back of your head. While these mask types are a good option for many people, some complain that their mouth falls open wearing a nasal pillow mask, leaving their throat feeling dry. In this case, you could opt for a full face mask or add a chin strap to your nasal pillow mask. 

Who might be a good fit for this mask:

  • People who feel claustrophobic
  • Glasses-wearers
  • People with beards or facial hair
  • Sleepers who can easily breathe through their nose
  • Those who want a full field of vision to read or watch TV

Who might not be a good fit for this mask: 

  • Those with nasal congestion
  • People with a deviated septum
  • People who need their mouth to breathe

Nasal CPAP Mask

Like the nasal pillow mask, the nasal CPAP mask only delivers air pressure through the nose. This mask covers more of the face, though, enclosing the entire nose4 rather than just the nostrils. It adheres to the face with headgear, which can either strap around the back of the head, or around the back of the head and across the forehead. 

This mask tends to be more stable and secure than the nasal pillow mask, making it a good option for those who move around during sleep. However, some people complain of irritation along the bridge of the nose with this type of mask. In this case, there is a newer “nasal cradle” mask that fits only over the nostrils, but unlike most nasal pillow masks, nasal cradle masks do not include prongs that enter the nostrils 

Who might be a good fit for this mask:

  • People with a higher pressure setting
  • Those who move around a lot during sleep 
  • Sleepers who can comfortably breathe only through their nose
  • Those with beards or facial hair

Who might not be a good fit for this mask: 

  • People with deviated septums 
  • Sleepers dealing with regular congestion
  • Those who wear glasses (though a nasal cradle may work for them)

Full Face CPAP Mask

A full face5, or oronasal mask, covers both the mouth and nose. It’s considered to be the most stable and secure type of mask, but it’s also one of the bulkiest.  This cumbersomeness might explain why some people have more trouble sticking with CPAP therapy using a full-face mask6 than other types of masks. 

The mask seals around the nose and mouth. It is held in place with four-point headgear, which attaches from the top of the face to the bottom and behind the head. 

Who might be a good fit for this mask:

  • Those with higher pressure settings
  • People with chronic nasal congestion
  • People with a deviated septum 
  • Back sleepers

Who might not be a good fit for this mask: 

  • Those who tend to feel claustrophobic
  • People with facial hair
  • Glasses-wearers
  • Stomach sleepers

Other CPAP Masks 

Though nasal pillow, nasal, and full face masks are the most popular types of CPAP masks, there are other options you can try. 

  • Nasal Prong CPAP Mask – This is similar to the nasal pillow mask, but the prongs in this mask go further into the nostrils and inflate a bit inside the nostril walls to create a seal. These masks are held in place with headgear that straps around the sides and top of the head. 
  • Oral CPAP Mask – An Oral CPAP mask is unique in that it includes an inside flap that goes into the mouth, resting between the teeth, and an outside flap that seals around the lips. The mask covers only the mouth, making it a good option for mouth breathers.  
  • Hybrid CPAP Mask – A hybrid CPAP mask is similar to a full-face mask but less bulky. It has the same sort of seal as a nasal pillow mask, but it also fully covers the mouth, providing a helpful solution for those who sometimes sleep with their mouth open. 
  • Total Face CPAP Mask – A total face CPAP mask covers the sleeper’s entire face, from the top of the forehead to the bottom of the chin. This is not usually necessary, but this mask type may be recommended for some people with facial abnormalities or those who leak a small amount of air out of their eyes. 

CPAP Mask Accessories

  • Headgear – The headgear secures your mask to your face and head. The headgear can be more simple or complex, depending on how bulky your mask is. Headgear straps are typically adjustable to better fit your head.  
  • Frame – The CPAP mask frame is the plastic part of the mask that connects to the headgear and holds the softer cushion. It provides the mask with its structure. 
  • Cushion – The cushion is the softer mask part that touches the skin. It provides comfort,  and, a good seal so that air won’t escape the mask. 

The Right Kind of CPAP Mask for Your Sleep Position

Back Sleepers

The upside for back sleepers is that they have more options for CPAP masks since their face isn’t rubbing up against their pillow. That said, if you stay sleeping on your back for the entire night, you might need a mask that can deliver more air pressure since back sleeping tends to make sleep apnea worse7. Because of this, you might opt for a full face or hybrid mask. 

Side Sleepers

In this position, one of your cheeks will be pushed into the pillow, so you’ll need a mask that covers less of your face. A nasal pillow mask is the least cumbersome, so it should be a good choice, but certain nasal and full face masks are also designed for side sleepers. Ask your sleep specialist about these options. 

Stomach Sleepers

Just like side sleeping, this position causes part of your face to be pushed into your pillow, which means you’ll need a less bulky mask. If possible, opt for a nasal or nasal pillow mask in this position and avoid a full-face mask. 

Combination Sleepers

Experts recommend nasal masks for those who switch between stomach, back, and side sleeping through the night.4 This is because these masks are less bulky than the full face option but more secure than the nasal pillow mask. 

Learn more: 9 Tips for Sleeping Better with CPAP


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best kind of CPAP mask?

The best sleep mask depends on your specific pressure needs, anatomy, and sleep position. Your healthcare provider who provides your CPAP prescription can help determine the right CPAP mask for you. If you’re new to CPAP therapy, it might be helpful to test out various mask types to see what you like best.

How many types of CPAP masks are there?

There are three more common types of CPAP masks: the nasal pillow mask, the nasal mask, and the full face mask. Additionally, several less common types of masks include the nasal prong CPAP mask, oral CPAP mask, hybrid CPAP mask, and the total face CPAP mask.

What type of CPAP mask do I need?

The type of CPAP mask you’ll need will depend on various factors, such as your sleep position, whether or not you wear glasses or have facial hair, your tendency toward claustrophobia, and whether you breathe out of your nose or mouth. Speak to your sleep specialist and try on some different mask styles to see what works best for you.

Natalie G.

Natalie G.

Writer

About Author

Natalie is a content writer for Sleep Advisor with a deep passion for all things health and a fascination with the mysterious activity that is sleep. Outside of writing about sleep, she is a bestselling author, improviser, and creative writing teacher based out of Austin.

Combination Sleeper

References:

  1. Calik, Michael W. “Treatments for Obstructive Sleep Apnea”. National Library of Medicine.
  2. “CPAP Machine”. Cleveland Clinic. Last modified November 9, 2021. 
  3. “Slide show: Which CPAP masks are best for you?: Nasal pillow mask”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified March 3, 2023. 
  4. “Slide show: Which CPAP masks are best for you?: Nasal masks”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified March 3, 2023. 
  5. “Slide show: Which CPAP masks are best for you?: Full-face masks (oronasal)”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified March 3, 2023. 
  6. Santos de Andrade, Rafaela Garcia., et al. “Impact of the type of mask on the effectiveness of and adherence to continuous positive airway pressure treatment for obstructive sleep apnea”. Jornal Brasilerio de Pneumologia. 2014. 
  7. “Choosing the Best Sleep Position”. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Webpage accessed November 23, 2023.