So you think, want, or are afraid you need a full face mask for your CPAP therapy?

The mask choice is the number one important make or break decision in starting CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy. The pressurized and humidified air needs to reach your airway to hold it open. This air stops the closing and narrowing of your throat that happens during obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

One of the first questions that I ask my patient starting on CPAP therapy is “Is breathing in and out from your nose a problem?” Many will say that they mouth breath and think that they need a mask that covers their nose and mouth. Nighttime mouth breathing is common, if not always occurring, during untreated sleep apnea. The airway obstructs and the mouth pops open, gasping for air. The mouth can be dry in the morning.

The body is designed for nose breathing. Starting with the hair in your nose to filter out particles in the air, onto the sinuses that warm and humidify the air. Unless there is significant clinical reason to start with a full face mask, it is not our first choice. Who wants a big mask that can cause more chance of leaks, noise and in rare instances cause sleep apnea to worsen as the jaw is pushed backwards?

During the first week(s) of therapy, a stuffy nose is common and will cause mouth opening. Let’s get that nose clear! We do that with increasing the humidity from the machine and recommending non-medicated nasal moisturizers if needed. Try to avoid nasal spray decongestants as they can worsen a stuffy nose if overused. Or talk to your doctor about nasal steroids. If you do need a full-face mask, there are many comfortable choices, but it is important to be measured and fitted. We even offer CPAP pillows that have a cut out to prevent the mask from shifting against your pillow. In some instances, we will recommend a nasal mask with a chin strap.

The beauty of being able to see your CPAP data from your home onto our computers is that we can actually tell if there is mouth opening! Cool eh? We look at the numbers and waveforms to tell between a mask leak and mouth opening and of course assess dry mouth and what your sleep partner will say. With the nose clear and your airway open, the mouth naturally stays closed during sleep. Many of our patients ask for a full-face mask because they struggle to keep their mouth closed when awake with a nasal mask and experience the tsunami of air coming out of their mouth. Talk to your sleep clinician to help with that overwhelming feeling. We have the solutions!

The Sleep Clinicians at Ontario Sleep Care are experienced and caring. Use their expertise and be rest assured that we can help!

Tracey McCauley RRT
Ontario Sleep Care
Niagara Falls