The most important component of a sleep apnea machine is a sleep apnea mask. A sleep apnea machine relieves obstructive sleep apnea conditions. Once patients have been diagnosed of sleep apnea and a treatment of CPAP therapy has been prescribed, the next thing to do is to have a sleep apnea mask fitted. This is connected to the machine by tubing and is fitted into the patient’s mouth or nose. The mask usually comes with a headgear that holds the mask to the head comfortably. Pressurized air is delivered through the machine’s tubing and is passed to the mask, which helps in preventing sleep apnea attacks during sleep.
Things to Consider When Getting a Sleep Apnea Mask
Comfort should be the basic priority when considering getting a CPAP machine. The first thing to think about is a mask to fit in. Ideally the mask should be snug enough to allow pressurized air to pass through effectively, without being leaked through the sides.
The mask has to be used every night when the patient goes to sleep, which is why it is highly necessary to ensure that it is comfortable. A sleep apnea mask can be small or medium sized. To be on the safer side, it is best to follow a rule of thumb, which is: choose the smaller size when in doubt. A larger mask is more vulnerable to leaks, which is why it is not really advisable to go for them, unless necessary ofcourse.
Patients who breathe through the nose can preferably choose a mask that covers the nose. Mouth breathers can use a mask that covers the full face (i.e. covers the both the nose and mouth). The kind of sleep apnea mask to choose can be determined easily by consulting a doctor.
The most common kind of mask that covers the nose is triangular in shape. It is attached to the head using a headgear, having adjustable straps that help in holding the mask in position. Straps should not be too tight or too loose; otherwise they could be very discomforting and can cause leaks. Most straps have quick-release clips, which make the masks easily removable. A chin strap can also be used to keep the mouth closed while sleeping. If people breathe through the mouth during the day, it is possibly due to a nasal obstruction. In such a case, a nose strap will not be recommended and the patient will need to consult an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
A sleep apnea mask can have a 1 ½ to 12 feet long hose or tube. Some patients may need to have a longer tube, however, it should be noted that the pressure level will need to be increased in order to allow the delivery of the correct amount of pressure. The ideal and correct pressure level for long tubes should be discussed with the doctor.
A common problem encountered with tubes is called a “rainout”. This is when the water from the humidifier seeps into the tube and goes into the mask. If a CPAP machine has a separate humidifier, it should be placed under the machine, so that the water can go back to the water compartment.
It should be made sure that humidifier is placed below the head level if it is not built-in in the machine. The heating controls can be adjusted as required. It should be ensured that the tubes are not bent, as it may cause water to build up and block the air flow. A “CPAP tubing wrap” is an accessory of the machine, which increases heat retention on the tubes, and thereby reducing the chances of “rainout” occurring.
The Typical Sleep Apnea Mask
A typical sleep apnea mask is made of a hard body of plastic. People that are allergic to silicone can try a mask made of vinyl or synthetic rubber instead. Masks can have different features, some of which can have adjustable pads that can be placed on the forehead. Silicone seals may inflate when the machine is turned on. This gives more comfort and helps the mask stay snugly fit.
There are more flexible masks being marketed, which can be adjusted to any size and therefore reduce the stress of looking for the right size to select. These masks have soft shells and gel cushions, with flexible wires that allow the masks to be molded according to the facial contours.
In addition, there is a new device or interface available as well, which is not a mask but consists of two tubes and looks like a large nasal cannula. These tubes are passed into the nostrils through which pressurized air is passed. While a nasal cannula has smaller tubes, this interface has larger ones, which are big enough to prevent the pressurized air from escaping. However, people need to consult a doctor on the type of sleep apnea mask to use, in order to be careful.