Selecting a mask

While the CPAP machine provides the life-saving pressure used to treat obstructive sleep apnea, the fit, feel, and reliability of your mask will likely determine if you stick with your CPAP therapy.

An uncomfortable mask, or one that doesn’t provide a good seal because of ill fit or style, will turn a person off. Full-face, nasal, nasal pillow and now nasal cradle masks allow a patient find a mask that suits their sleeping style, their breathing habits, and their facial structure. Add to that the sheer number of manufacturers and models/styles of each type, and you have a veritable boat load from which to find the mask that is perfect for you.

I’m a “nose breather” on most occasions and typically only breathe through my mouth when I’m congested. My sleep doctor fit me with a ResMed AirFit N20 nasal mask (size medium, to my relief), and it only cost me $75 through his office. Its neoprene headgear design is pretty comfortable, and the velcro adjustments allowed me to the find the right tension, top and bottom, to create a good seal without being overly tight. Neodymium magnets are used instead of clips to secure the headgear to the mask. The magnets are convenient when I have to make a midnight pitstop, because I don’t have to fumble with buckles or clips to re-attach the mask while I’m in my sleep-walking haze.

This mask works well for me most of the time, but having facial hair and being a side-sleeper, it sometimes loses its seal when I roll during the night and the side of the mask is pushed aside by my pillow. I’m still searching for a pillow position, firmness, and style that works best for me. Stay tuned for more information on that.

Recently, I’d read hundreds of customer reviews (mostly taken with a grain of salt) on nasal pillow and cradle designs, and settled on a ResMed AirFit N30i nasal cradle style. I selected this particular headgear because it accepts the P30i nasal pillows as well as the N30i cradles … and it has a sci-fi look that appeals to my inner geek.

I was a leary about the sealability of the cradle-style cushion, and this gave me the option of using a nasal pillow if I had issues with the seal. I bought it piece-by-piece (headgear, AirFit N30i standard system with medium cushion, and a medium P30i pillow) on Amazon for a total cost of $75, including tax, saved about $20 over most online retailers, AND got the additional pillow. With our Prime membership, shipping was free.

All of the components came in the mail over the past couple of days, so last night was my first attempt of sleeping with it.

Surprisingly, the cradle cushion kept a good seal most of the night, even with my normal tossing and turning. A couple of times, however, it slid toward the tip of my nose, shifting the alignment of the air holes, making it harder to exhale. After the last slip, I repositioned the mask and tightened the straps a little more. That seemed to work. Tonight, I’m going to try it with the P30i nasal pillow to see how it works. I’m not thrilled with the idea of having prongs in my nose, but many of the reviews I’ve read say it doesn’t take too long to get used to it. I’ll keep you posted.

Finding the right mask is mostly about trial and error. Sure, every new mask you try is going to cost you a pretty penny, but finding the one you can tolerate throughout the night will go a long way toward ensuring you stick with your CPAP therapy. – by Matt Lindler (a.k.a. CPAP Matt)

Snoozing with the ResMed AirFit N30i nasal cradle mask.

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