Should I Try a Mask or a Cannula for My CPAP?

You are recently diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a serious disease in which a person’s respirations become shallow or stop completely repeatedly during sleep. Your doctor has prescribed a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) to keep your upper airway open and your respirations going. This treatment reduces your fatigue, tiredness, and daytime sleepiness besides reducing your risk of stroke, heart attack, uncontrolled blood pressure, and of drowsy driving death.

You are overwhelmed though. You are anxious if you will be able to sleep soundly with CPAP. You are wondering if you should choose a nasal mask, or a full facemask, or just a tiny tiny nasal cannula to connect to your CPAP machine.

The choice depends on several factors.

If you are a mouth breather, a full facemask may work better. The Amara full-face mask from Philips Respironics is a popular choice of my patients. It is lighter, smaller, and has significantly fewer parts than leading traditional full-face masks. In fact, it requires just a single click to disassemble and reassemble the cushion and the mask frame for quick cleaning and replacement.

If you breath through your nose, a small mask that just covers your nose would work well. The picture below is of an Airfit N10 mask from ResMed. My patients prefer this because of its cushion that fits comfortably on the face and the SoftEdge™ headgear, which minimizes facial marks.

If you suffer from are claustrophobia, a nasal cannula may work better. The picture below shows an AirFit P10 from Respironics.

If your mouth opens up during sleep, you can always add a chin strap to your nasal mask or cannula.

Whether you choose a nasal mask, or a full facemask or a cannula, remember to try several different sizes and shapes of that nasal interface. You may end up changing it over first several months until you find one that feels most comfortable.

Good luck and best wishes. Stay persistent. Stay pleasant. Stay asleep.  

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