PAP Mask Types
There are many different types of positive airway pressure (PAP) masks. Masks can be divided into three types. The first type, sits underneath the nose, the second mask goes around the nose, and the third type of mask goes around the nose and the mouth. Different mask types are better suited for different people, largely depending on personal preference.
There is both art and science that goes into mask fitting. It is important to evaluate someone’s bone and face structure in determining which mask might be a good fit. Typically the best mask is found after some trial and error, so it can be very helpful to try different masks to determine the best type for each person.
A good mask fit is very important because if the mask is uncomfortable, it’s hard to use while sleeping. Another important factor is that if the mask doesn’t fit well, the mask user can have air leaks, and that air leaking out of the machine can cause for increased noise and also prevent the pressure from going into the nose and throat, which is required to keep the airway open.
The smallest type of mask is type that sits underneath the nose. These types of masks are known as nasal pillow. New PAP users will often gravitate toward these masks because they’re smaller than other types. PAP users who have feelings of claustrophobia, will also gravitate toward this mask type. One potential issue with nasal pillow is that if the user tosses and turns in her sleep it’s easier for the masks to shift out of place.
Nasal masks go around the nose, but leave the mouth free. This type of mask is often easy to fit and is less likely than a nasal pillow to shift if the user tosses and turns. One potential issue with nasal masks (and nasal pillows as well) is that if the user opens her mouth during sleep, air can escape and not fully address the sleep apnea.
Full Face Masks
Full face masks cover both the nose and mouth and can be quite stable and resistant to air leakage. Naturally they are larger than the other types and some users note that it can be more difficult to sleep on their side with this mask type. Also, full face masks can be a little intimidating to new PAP users.