7 Common CPAP mask problems & how to solve them

CPAP mask issue in bed with partner ResMed blog in UK

August 2nd 2018

If you have a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine as a part of your sleep apnoea therapy, it goes without saying that you’ll get the most from your therapy by keeping it regular and consistent.

Consistency comes from using the machine during every sleep as instructed and keeping as close to a routine as is feasible. While a CPAP machine can offer relief and a better night’s sleep, it’s not without its minor challenges too. Most commonly, CPAP users can encounter issues with the mask. If you’re experiencing any issues with your mask, we’ve listed seven common concerns around CPAP masks, and how you can solve them, so you can focus on getting a great night’s rest.

The CPAP mask plays a major role in the functioning of the sleep apnoea machine, and as it is the only part of your therapy with direct contact to your skin, it is the one part that most people have questions about. Here, we look at all of the common mask problems and, more importantly, how to solve them so you can get the most out of your nightly treatment.

What are the most common CPAP mask concerns?

Finding the perfect mask that fits your face well is essential in achieving effective results when using it on CPAP therapy for Sleep Apnoea treatment. That’s because having a CPAP mask that is the correct shape for your face not only ensures comfort to assist with consistent use, it also makes the mask work correctly each time you sleep.

Solution One: Learn How To Put On Your CPAP Mask

Your mask may not fit you correctly if you are not putting on the headgear in the right manner. Small adjustments can make all the difference when it comes to comfort and effectiveness, so whether you’re new to therapy or are adapting to a new mask, ask your medical professional to show you the best way to put on your mask so that it fits perfectly to the contours of your face as it is designed to do. At ResMed’s sleep clinics in London and Oxfordshire, you can book in for a mask fitting appointment any time.

Solution Two: Take Your Time To Find The Right CPAP Mask

It’s worth investing the time to find the right CPAP mask which fits you comfortably and correctly. When you see your medical professional, they will help you trialling and choosing the right mask, it’s important at this stage to vocalise any concerns, however minor as it’s important to ensure you feel comfortable and after all, only you will know the answer to this.

Solution Three: Adjust For Facial Changes Over Time

Your face can naturally change over time, whether you’re losing or gaining weight, or growing a beard, this can have an impact on your mask fit. If that happens, don’t just put up with the ill-fitting mask, as it can cause discomfort and issues with your treatment, consider purchasing a new mask that better suits your current needs. ResMed offers a mask fitting service at our clinics in London and Oxfordshire.

If you can hear or feel air leaking from your mask, this should not be ignored as not only can it cause discomfort and keep you awake, it can also mean that your therapy is being compromised. The way your CPAP machine works to overcome Sleep Apnoea each night is by using air pressure to keep your throat open throughout the hours of sleep so that there is a constant stream of air going into your airways. The loss of that air pressure due to a leak in a seal can therefore mean that the treatment is not working effectively, if at all.

In other words, if you’re on CPAP therapy and doing everything right in terms of consistency, you will still not be getting the full benefit and possibly even no benefit if you’re not quick to address mask leak.

Solution One: Mask Fitting

This lies in ensuring the mask is fitting your face snugly to create an air pressure seal. If you feel that there is a seepage of air, or you find that your pre-therapy symptoms return, it’s time to get your medical professional to check whether your mask fits correctly and is not leaking.

We understand this can be inconvenient, however there’s no point in going to the trouble of using your CPAP machine if it is not working for you, especially when it’s such an easy fix.

Solution Two: Replace Your CPAP Mask

Over time, masks experience normal wear and tear which can lead to a misshapen form. Natural skin oils as well as creams and make-up can all contribute to wear on the seal, leading to discomfort and leaks. CPAP masks are consumables that should be replaced regularly to ensure that your treatment remains effective every time you wear the headgear. To ensure you get the best use from your mask it’s important to clean it regularly. If you have a ResMed AirSense 10 device and are registered for myAir, you can find plenty of help videos and guides to help with mask maintenance, otherwise you can visit the ResMed website and type your mask model into the search bar to find help videos and information.

Some people on CPAP therapy can experience nasal and sinus issues, such as a dry or stuffy nose when exposed to the air coming from the CPAP mask.

Solution: Use A Heated Humidifier For Your CPAP Machine

Most CPAP machines now come with a heated humidifier device included or as an optional extra. This is specifically designed to increase the moisture levels in the air being delivered and should help reduce dryness in your airways and can even solve it altogether. Find out more about humidification here.

For some, getting used to the continual air being blown through the mask can be difficult. Understandably so, as it doesn’t feel very natural, especially when you are just beginning treatment. Tolerating the air stream while trying to rest may be a little uncomfortable. Some people can also find it difficult to exhale against the pressure.

Solution: Use The Sleep Onset Detection Function (AutoRamp)

Some CPAP devices have a Sleep Onset Detection feature where the machine will begin at a low pressure and won’t ramp up to your prescribed pressure until the device detects that you have fallen asleep. On ResMed devices, this feature is called AutoRamp. What this means is, while you are lying in bed with the headgear on, you won’t experience the full pressure of the air until after you have drifted off and are no longer actively aware when the airflow increases. This can greatly ease the feeling of discomfort, while ensuring your treatment is effective.

Sometimes it’s not the mask itself, but the tube behind it that can create the problem. While the tube is an essential part of your treatment because it connects the mask to the CPAP machine, it can often be inconvenient and get in the way during the night.

Solution One: ResMed’s CPAPmax 2.0 pillow

If you are getting frustrated by the tube connecting your mask to your CPAP therapy machine, you can look at what pillow you’re using. ResMed’s CPAPmax 2.0 pillow molds to your facial features and the removable layers allow you to change your pillow height to achieve the best possible support and comfort by properly aligning your head, neck and spine. The pressure-free side cut-outs reduce mask interference and a hose-tether allows your air hose to move with you throughout the night without pulling on your mask causing it to shift or leak.

Solution Two: Use a hose lift

ResMed’s CPAP Hose Lift is a strong, lightweight system that prevents your air tubing getting tangled or tugging on your mask while you sleep. It provides great overhead clearance for your tubing, but packs down small for travelling.

Frustration with CPAP treatment is unfortunate, but very normal. We understand that it can be disheartening and trying on your patience knowing that you have to wear a mask and a machine on a long term basis. Patients often become fed up having to put on the headgear nightly.

Solution: Focus On The Positive Aspects Of Your CPAP Treatment

If you have been prescribed CPAP therapy, the chances are that you started your journey with symptoms having a serious effect on your day-to-day life. Focusing on the positive health benefits of your treatment over the inconvenience of the mask will help reassure you as to why you are doing this every night. It sounds trivial, but it’s important to recognise what you’re getting out of your CPAP therapy and by focusing on how much better you feel each day after a solid night’s sleep with the CPAP machine, versus how you were before the treatment will help reinforce why you are doing this in the first place.

When you first wear a mask on your face, especially while resting, it is possible that you may feel odd or a little discomfort. After all, when it’s in use, your CPAP mask is strapped to your face, blowing streams of air into your mouth and airways to help keep your throat clear all night. This experience may feel unsettling for some users new to CPAP therapy.

Solution One: Try An Alternative Type Of CPAP Mask

For some patients, the mask’s design and size can be a little intimidating. This is more commonly true for full-face masks, because it covers a lot of your face while being a little heavy. If this is happening to you, we often recommend trying a different type of mask, known as a nasal pillow mask. They fit directly into the base of your nose with pillow-type cushions which seal around your nostrils. Many people prefer the nasal pillow masks as they are smaller, lighter and quieter.

These mask designs are ultimately less intrusive and make a user feel more at ease than the larger mask types, and many find they are able to overcome their initial claustrophobia by switching to nasal pillow CPAP masks.

Find more information about our pillows masks and our nasal masks.

Solution Two: Introduce The CPAP Mask In Stages

The solution may lie in breaking down the use of the mask into stages so you can get used to it.

Instead of immediately strapping the mask to your face and turning on the air – which can be quite intimidating – try simply holding it to your face first. Wait a few moments until you are comfortable with its presence. Next, turn on the pressurised airflow and slowly acclimatise yourself to that sensation too. After this, the next step is to finally strap the headgear on and see how you feel.

By breaking down the introduction of the mask into stages, you can ease yourself into getting comfortable with the mask. Give it a try and see if it helps!

Solution Three: Wear The CPAP Mask Outside Of Bed

If you’ve ever been skiing, or bought a new pair of hiking boots before embarking on a long trek, you’ll be familiar with the phrase ‘wearing in’. This process can also be applied to CPAP therapy. You can try wearing the headgear while performing daily tasks and chores such as cleaning, watching television or reading. The activity will distract you, while you get more accustomed to the feeling and weight of the mask.

Solution Four: Use The Sleep Onset Detection Function On Your CPAP Device

The Sleep Onset Detection feature is available on some CPAP devices. On ResMed devices, this feature is called AutoRamp. This function waits until it detects that you have fallen asleep before administering your overnight therapy. What this means is, while you are lying in bed with the headgear on, you won’t experience the full pressure of the air until after you have drifted off and no longer actively aware when the airflow increases. This can greatly ease the feeling of discomfort, while ensuring your treatment is effective. This can reduce the sense of claustrophobia by slowing increasing the air pressure, rather than having it on maximum all at once.

Solution Five: Take Small Naps With The CPAP Mask In Place

This is another way to get acclimatised to your CPAP mask in order to reduce the feeling of claustrophobia. Try napping with the CPAP headgear on for short periods on a couch or some other location that isn’t your normal bed. The shorter time and different location can allow you to feel more at ease about wearing it, and break down the sense of fear.

Solution Six: Speak To the team at ResMed UK

If you have tried the solutions above but you are still having issues with claustrophobia speak to our team or your medical professional about these issues. We’re available during normal office hours on 0800 917 7071. Our trained staff will be able to help you through.

Are you having issues with your CPAP treatment?

While a lot of CPAP mask issues can be fixed at home, we recommend regular reviews with your healthcare professional to ensure that you are getting the most from your sleep apnoea treatment. The sleep specialists at ResMed UK can provide you with a detailed look at your therapy data from your CPAP device to see if treatment is working for you.

Having regular check-ups where your therapy data is downloaded and reviewed will allow the identification of trends, so you can see exactly how it’s working. We can also inform your GP of any updates.

ResMed’s clinics in London and Oxfordshire offer an annual review, mask fits and free product demonstrations. If you want to find out more contact the ResMed UK team.

This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such. You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.

If you have any specific questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website. The views expressed on this blog and website have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, practice, or other institution with which the authors are affiliated and do not directly reflect the views of ResMed or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates.