Best CPAP Mask Style – Which one is Best for You?

  • By Clay Rollyson
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Selecting the right CPAP mask can be a daunting task. For us, it has been helpful to narrow down the selections first by choosing a CPAP Mask Style first. There have always been 3 different styles for a very long time (nasal, nasal pillow and full), but these days we actually break them down in to 5 styles. Below we will take a deeper dive on each Mask Style and how to select the best mask for you. Each category has a great video to help you visualize what the mask options might be like.

Nasal Pillow CPAP Masks:

Almost everyone considers a Nasal Pillow CPAP mask at first. For many it is a great option, but for others it is quite the opposite. A nasal pillow mask is designed to be very small, simple, and easy to use. This is because there is very little surface area to seal. These masks feature two nasal buds that rest on your nostrils, and they usually have very little headgear and straps. Let’s take a look at what makes this mask a good style for you or not.

When Nasal Pillows are a good idea:

  • Claustrophobic CPAP users– If you really cannot stand something on your face restricting you then these very minimal masks are a great option.
  • Low pressure users– If you are on a CPAP pressure of 10 or less Nasal Pillows can be great.
  • Side Sleepers– Many of the Nasal Pillow masks are very low profile. This makes them great for CPAP users that sleep on their side or move side to side.
  • Irritation from other styles– If you have had issues with irritation from other masks, like on the bridge of the nose you should consider a Nasal Pillow.

When are Nasal Pillows a bad idea:

  • Heavy mouth breathers– If you struggle to breathe through your nose, then Nasal Pillows are out. Mouth breathers wake up with dry mouth frequently. If you can sit calmly while awake and breathe easily through your nose, then you are probably not a mouth breather.
  • High CPAP Pressure– CPAP ranges typically from 4-20cm of pressure. When you are on the top half of that range, then Nasal Pillows can be tough. Mostly due to exhalation restriction.
  • Exhalation issues– If you feel like you struggle to exhale Nasal Pillows will usually make that worse. Exhaling through two small holes with continuous pressure coming out of them, can be difficult.

Nasal Cradle CPAP Masks:

Nasal Cradle CPAP Masks are a newer addition to the CPAP mask world. They feature a seal under the nose but have a broader seal than their Nasal Pillow cousin. Many Nasal Cradle masks have very similar headgear and frames to the Nasal Pillow. Some are even interchangeable with their Nasal Pillow counterpart. For a detailed look at the top Nasal Cradle  Masks check out that blog here.

When Nasal Cradles are a good idea:

  • It is the “in-between”– There are benefits to pillows and benefits of traditional Nasal. This cradle style gives you the best of both. For instance: easier exhalation like a nasal mask with minimal mask like a pillow mask.
  • No pressure on the nostrils– The pillow CPAP masks can really irritate the nostrils. The cradle style greatly reduces that pressure point.
  • Ease of use– The cradle style can be great for CPAP users that have dexterity issues or mobility limitations. Their simplicity allows for people to take them on and off easily.

When Nasal Cradles are a bad idea:

  • Side of nose leak– If you are getting continual leaks at the side of the nose and downsizing the cushion doesn’t work, then cradle masks probably will not work.
  • Mouth Breathers– Once again the Nasal Cradle CPAP Mask options are not a great plan without some way or keeping your mouth shut.
  • Point of nose irritation– From time to time the Nasal Cradle style will irritate the tip of the nose. Some models of Nasal Cradle are better than others, but this can happen with all of them.

Standard Nasal CPAP Masks:

The Standard Nasal Style CPAP Mask has been around for a very long time. It typically surrounds the nose entirely and goes over top of the bridge of the nose. These are usually very effective, but they are a bit cumbersome compared to the Nasal Pillow or Nasal Cradle versions. There are quite a few options available in this mask, and it can be a great choice for some CPAP users. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of them.

When Nasal Masks are a good idea:

  • Exhalation is easier– The Nasal Style CPAP mask is a good bit easier to exhale on than the Cradles and especially the pillows. So, if you are struggling with exhalation on a nasal pillow the standard nasal may be an option.
  • Simple seal– Because this mask seals around the nose it is usually pretty easy to seal and works for most people.
  • Easy to keep in place– Some of the simplest masks like the Pillows or the Cradles can move out of place while you shift in your sleep. The 4-point headgear on the Nasal Masks stays in place very well.

When Nasal Masks are a bad idea:

  • Mouth Breathers– Again, because you have to breathe through the nose only on a Nasal Mask, mouth breathers do not fare well in most cases.
  • Bridge of nose issues– If you have a pronounced bridge of your nose, then the Nasal Mask may rub a bit there. This can cause irritation, and maybe even rub the skin raw.
  • Stomach sleepers– If you sleep with your face down then Nasal Masks may hit the pillow and cause leaks or discomfort.

Traditional Full Face CPAP Masks:

A Traditional Full-Face Mask is usually a triangular shape. It will cover the mouth and nose by going over top of the bridge of the nose. Much like the standard Nasal Masks. Many of these masks are very popular because they work well and have been around for a long time. Let’s take a closer look at what might make this mask style a good or bad idea for you.

When Traditional Full Face is a good idea:

  • Mouth Breathers– This is the top recommendation for people that are primarily breathing through their mouth. This style mask gives you the ability to breathe easily through mouth or nose.
  • Simple to seal– This traditional style Full Face mask is pretty darn easy to seal, and it works for most people.
  • High pressure CPAP users– If you are at a pretty high pressure on your CPAP then this is more than likely the style of mask that you should use. The Mirage Quattro and Vitera are good options for this.

When Traditional Full Face is a bad idea:

  • Bridge of nose issues– Some full face CPAP masks can really rub the bridge of the nose. This can cause some significant skin issues at the point of contact there.
  • Claustrophobic– If having something over your face or in your line of sight bothers you, then this will not be a great option.
  • Stomach Sleepers– If you sleep face down, then this is a tough mask. They have a large profile and can cause discomfort and leaks when it hits the pillow.

Minimal Contact Full Face CPAP Masks:

Minimal Contact Full Face masks are the newest style available. There are a few options available today and all of them are unique. They all feature a seal that goes over the mouth, but seals under the nose instead of over the nose. This gives you a similar therapy to the traditional full face with a much less cumbersome fit. Let’s look at the details.

When Minimal Contact is a good idea:

  • Claustrophobic mouth breathers– If you are a mouth breather but need a less invasive option, this style is worth considering. They have a much better open line of sight.
  • Bridge of nose discomfort– If you have had any issues with irritation at the bridge of your nose the minimal contact style completely solves that issue.
  • Great for people wearing glasses– If you like to read or watch TV before bed and need to wear glasses this is a great option. Minimal Contact Full face masks give you clear line of sight.

When Minimal Contact is a bad idea:

  • Leaks at side of nose– If you have a really pointy nose, then it can be tough to seal on the sides of the nose with a Minimal Contact Full.
  • Can irritate the tip of the nose– Sometimes depending on your nose theses masks can rub or irritate the tip of your nose.
  • Big mustaches– If you have a lot of upper lip hair, then you may have issues sealing with this style mask.