If you need a CPAP or BiPAP machine to help you get enough oxygen while you are sleeping, you will understand how important it is to have the right kind of face mask. Many people end up moving around and tossing and turning in their sleep, and this face mask has to stay in place through all of that. A nasal cannula will not work in most situations, unless you stay perfectly still, lying on your back while you are sleeping.
The most complicated part about using a CPAP or BiPAP machine is something that most people might overlook or take for granted – finding a CPAP mask that is comfortable and fits your face. There are many different sizes of these masks. It's likely that you will find one that you've tried on and decided that this was the mask for you, but then at night when you are trying to sleep, the mask suddenly seems to not feel right anymore. It's not uncommon to try out a few different masks before you find one that fits you properly and doesn't interfere with your sleep. Using a CPAP machine can be hard to get used to in itself, so it's important to choose the right mask to make the transition easier.
Types of Masks and Their Features
First, consider the way the straps sit on your head. There are single straps that go across the back of your head and over your ears, and ones that have two straps. There are masks that have two different straps that meet in the back of your head and become one single, snug, large strap that hugs that back of your head. The more straps there are, the more stable the mask will be while you are sleeping. This is important because you don't want to risk any air leaks. Air leaks mean you are not able to get all of the air and the CPAP or BiPAP machine can't do its job properly.
Look for masks that have a soft cushion around the part of the mask that will be coming in contact with your face. These cushions are supposed to help protect your skin from irritation, as well as make them more comfortable in general.
There are "nasal pillows", which are very small and fit inside your nose, and are much more comfortable than nasal cannulas. They were designed to be small, lightweight and unobtrusive to wear while you are sleeping. Even though they were made for maximal comfort, not everyone can handle something in their nose while they are sleeping. You might also move around too much and accidentally remove them from your nose in your sleep.
The size and shape of the mask itself should be taken into account. If you're not claustrophobic, which can be a problem with choosing a CPAP or BiPAP mask, you can try a full face mask. A full face mask covers from your mouth to your hairline, which is preferred by some people who don't like the feeling of something sitting on their nose and mouth.
A mask made for a CPAP or BiPAP machine can be used with any CPAP or BiPAP machine. There are many more features and types of masks than were mentioned here. Once you find a mask that works well for you, but it still bothers you a little, give yourself some time – you might just need to get used to the feeling of it.