HomeHealthCPAP:  CPAP Machine and Mask

Mask Function in CPAP Treatment

A CPAP mask is an integral part of the primary treatment option for sleep apnea. Because sleep apnea is a respiratory disorder that occurs while sleeping due to an obstructed airway, it is clear that any effective treatment will have to function to improve respiration. In the past, intubation—placing a breathing tube down the throat—was the only way to push oxygen into the lungs. However, with the advent of the CPAP machine and CPAP mask, the process has become much easier and less invasive for those undergoing the treatment. Because of its safe and simple nature and history of success, the CPAP machine has become the preferred method of treatment for sleep apnea.

CPAP Mask Problems and Options

For people using a CPAP machine as a treatment for sleep apnea, a CPAP mask worn on the face while sleeping transmits oxygen from the machine into the lungs. Although this is a very effective way to convey the oxygen from the machine to the body, it can be difficult to get used to wearing a breathing mask while sleeping. The problems people experience with the CPAP mask vary from person to person. Some people have claustrophobic issues about the mask covering up both their nose and mouth. It is hard to learn how to breathe pressurized air through a mask when you are used to breathing on your own.

Another problem with the CPAP mask is the discomfort of wearing anything on the face while sleeping. For people who are relatively motionless sleepers, this may not be that much of a problem. However, some people move around, tossing and turning during the night. When wearing a breathing mask with tubes attached to a machine sitting beside the bed, all the tossing and turning can entangle people and cause them to wake up. This awakening causes as much sleep disruption as the sleep apnea, but people can learn how to deal with the machine and its mask and tubes more than they can control the involuntary collapsing of their airway. The breathing mask may also shift positions or become dislocated while sleeping, which can also become uncomfortable.

Although there are problems with the CPAP, there are various options to try that can ease discomfort. Chin or head straps can provide more stability and security to keep the mask in place, and different types of masks that deliver the air through the nasal passages alone are also more comfortable for some people. Forehead cushions can decrease pressure or rubbing, as well.

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