Need A CPAP Machine For Sleep Apnea? Why Your Face Mask Needs A Good Seal

Health & Medical Blog

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where your natural breathing continually stops and starts again. Besides causing daytime fatigue, sleep apnea has been linked to cardiovascular problems. If you've been diagnosed with sleep apnea recently, your doctor may have recommended a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine and mask. Read on to learn more about this device and why you need a good seal while wearing your mask.

How Does a CPAP Machine work?

The CPAP device continually blows air through a tube that is connected to a face mask. As this air hits the face mask, the increased pressure keeps your throat muscles from narrowing and collapsing during the night. For many people, a CPAP machine can fix all their sleep apnea symptoms—as long as the mask is worn correctly.

Why are Leaks in the Face Mask a Problem?

Because CPAP devices pump strong bursts of air through the tube and mask, it may not seem like a big deal if there are small leaks in the mask where the air escapes. However, these leaks can make a difference. Every CPAP device is calibrated to the patient's specific apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) number. This number includes the sum of apnea (pauses in breathing) and hypopneas (periods of shallow breathing). Because the CPAP device is calibrated with your AHI in mind, you won't get the right "dose" of continuous airway pressure if some of the air escapes from your mask. You may also not see a decrease in your symptoms if there is a leak in the mask.

How Can You Keep Air From Escaping from the Mask?

Ideally, you should be able to try on the mask before buying the CPAP device to make sure that it fits. If it doesn't, the good news is that there are many types of masks—and one can be changed out for another to fit your device. Your doctor or a professional at a sleep clinic can help you get fitted with the proper size.

Besides getting the mask fitted by a professional, consider how you sleep—for instance side sleepers may need a different style of mask since air can leak out of the mask where their cheek meets their pillow.

Believe it or not, men who have mustaches or beards may have trouble finding a mask that fits snugly. Because facial hair isn't smooth like skin, it can be harder to get a tight seal with the mask. Thankfully, there are ways to remedy this problem. First, you could get a headgear-type attachment so that you can pull the mask's straps more tightly. Some men with facial hair may find that it's easier to use a mask that fits just the nostrils (called nasal pillows) instead of both the nostrils and mouth. If you or your doctor prefer a full, traditional CPAP mask, then you may want to invest in CPAP beard sealant.

Some sealants act as a shampoo and conditioner and soften and smooth beard bristles so that it's easier to get a tighter seal with the mask. Some sealants act more like a gel. These sealants not only remove air leaks, but they can prevent irritating sounds from air escaping the mask. Some sealants also act as moisturizers or are aloe-based so that your beard and skin aren't irritated by mask compression or dried/chapped from continuous air.

Reach out to a health and medical provider in your area to learn more about proper-fitting CPAP masks and CPAP sealants.


27 August 2020

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