The Mask Fitting Process

In the sleep center, there’s a portion of the sleep study we call "the desensitization."

This process is where I, or the technician doing the test, will fit you with a mask. This is an important process for you, the patient.

Why is the mask fitting process important?

Here are a couple of reasons why this would be important: the first would be if you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, you would be potentially wearing this mask.

More important than the first reason, you could be wearing this mask every night. I know what I described sounds permanent, but it isn’t. If you don’t like the mask, you can always try a different one. But returns aren’t any fun, so let’s get it right the first time.

So what questions should you ask? What type of mask do you need? If these questions are flowing through your brain, stay with me, I think the following information will be helpful.

Types of CPAP masks

There are 3 types of masks. There are certainly different versions and styles of these types, but they fall under the same umbrella.

Nasal pillows

Up first, the nasal pillows. This mask inserts into your nostrils. It isn’t intrusive though. This mask is small in nature and requires you to breathe through your nose. Type in "nasal pillows cpap" into Google images for pictures.

Nasal mask

The nasal mask is like the pillows in that it’s small in nature, but it differs in the way it goes on the face. The nasal mask actually covers the nose instead. Again this mask requires you to breathe through your nose. Just like I mentioned previously, search Google images for pictures.

Full face mask

The final mask is a full face mask. In my time as a sleep technologist, I can confidently say this was the most popular mask. In nature, this mask is bigger and bulkier than the masks listed above, but with the full face mask, you have the capability of breathing through your nose and mouth. If you want to see pictures you’ll...I hate when people finish my sentences.

What type of mask do you need?

To be honest, we all have preferences in life, but preferences can’t supersede a need. What do I mean by this? Here’s an example: you might prefer to buy a new car, but before you do you’ll need to examine your budget to see if you can afford it while still taking care of your needs (house, clothes, and food).

The CPAP mask can work in a similar fashion. You might prefer the nasal pillow mask, but since you are a mouth breather you need a full face. Preference must be submitted to need. Here’s a single question to help you determine whether you are a mouth breather: is my mouth dry? If your mouth is dry you’ll likely need a full face mask.

Other mask considerations

If you have a pacemaker you’ll need to avoid wearing a mask with magnets.

If you are an anxious person and struggle with claustrophobia I think a natural move would be to reach for the nasal pillows. The pillows are small in nature and look easier to breathe with, but remember it restricts your breathing to nasal breathing alone, so I would argue for a full face mask. It doesn’t restrict your breathing in any capacity, but at the end of the day, you are a unique individual so the best approach as always is to try it out.

I welcome your comments and questions below.

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