CPAP Masks: Solving 3 Common Problems

CPAP Masks: Solving 3 Common Problems

For some people, just the thought of having to secure a plastic mask to their face is unpleasant. Sleep is a precious commodity to all. But it is particularly precious to the people suffering from sleep apnea. The idea of sleep which many of us take for granted now becomes a monumental undertaking. The build of newer CPAP machines are exceptionally quiet and compact. However, the CPAP mask remains the number one complaint with CPAP equipment users. Speaking with many clients over the years, we have identified the three most common complaints. We also offer solutions to help get the rest you need and enhance your lifestyle.

Itchy And Dry Nose/Mouth

After numerous tries on various masks CPAP masks, you have finally found a comfortable CPAP mask that fits all the intricacies of your face. This, as most CPAP users are acutely aware, is no small feat. Even though your mask fits comfortably on your face, you may still have a common problem. Users complain about continual dry mouth and/or stuffy nose. A simple and cost-effective solution to this issue is the addition of a heated humidifier to your CPAP machine. Using a heated humidifier will help decrease nasal congestion and stuffiness. Also, this results in a more comfortable CPAP experience and a more rested feeling when you wake up.

Newer style CPAP machines often come with an integrated heated humidifier. These integrated units are still quite small and considered very travel friendly. Even older CPAP machines can make use of a universal stand-alone heated humidifier such as the Velocity Heated Humidifier. Additionally, an improperly sealed CPAP mask can also produce a dry feeling in the nose and throat. It is vital to inspect your CPAP mask continuously to make sure that the silicone or gel cushion has not broken down. It is important that the cushion is still providing an effective seal. Generally, you should replace these cushions within 3 to 6 months of constant use to maintain efficacy.

Facial Marks And Nose Sores

For the most effective results, CPAP users need to ensure the mask has an effective and comfortable seal around the nose or the nose and mouth. We have spoken to hundreds of patients and found that CPAP users commonly mention facial marks and nose sores are an irritant. This issue is generally from users over-tightening of the mask straps. CPAP masks are designed to produce an effective seal without applying significant amounts of pressure to the face. In fact, if you are over-tightening your mask, it is probably time for a new cushion or complete mask. Nevertheless, a simple but effective solution is to put the mask on while in bed.

While you are lying in bed, place the mask on your face and connect the headgear so the mask is snug but not tight. A CPAP mask is designed to have an evenly distributed seal. By placing the mask on while lying down, it allows for a proper fit during sleeping. Make sure that your mask fits snuggly but not to lose as this will cause air to escape. If there is too much tension toward the top of the mask, it can cause sores on the nose.

While finding a comfortable CPAP mask is ideal, having the proper size mask is crucial to effective CPAP treatment. Many of the new style masks have implemented gel or an inflatable type cushions that compensate for movements in any direction. These types of masks allow for an improved seal without needing to over-tighten the mask straps. The Respironics Comfort Gel nasal mask and the Resmed Mirage Activa LT are two excellent examples of this technology. Furthermore, masks such as the Resmed Mirage Micro LT have an adjustable forehead assembly that can easily modify to suit each user's profile.

CPAP Pressure Tolerance

Most first-time users experience the unpleasant feeling of CPAP air pressure immediately. The pressure is delivered from the CPAP machine, through a tube and into the CPAP mask generally at a fixed rate. This sensation, which can be uncomfortable to new users, will be alleviated by using the ramp feature on your CPAP machine. The ramp feature allows the CPAP pressure to gradually increase over a period of time. For example, if your CPAP pressure is 13cm/H20, you may find it more relaxing to have the CPAP pressure start at 4cm/H20 and then "ramp up" over 20 minutes, at which time the CPAP machine will reach its prescribed setting. This is usually accomplished while you are drifting off to sleep so it is less intrusive. Most of the high-end CPAP machines (auto adjusting) have a ramp feature that is automatic and does not require manual adjustments. By using this feature properly, the CPAP user should become accustomed to the prescribed pressure and have less trouble securing your CPAP mask. If problems continue, please consult with your sleep specialist.


These three commonly encountered CPAP issues are all solvable. Understanding the solutions will ensure better compliance, provide CPAP users with a more effective treatment and aid you in achieving improved sleep. This, in turn, will positively affect the quality of life and reduce the negative issues associated with CPAP.

Chris Vasta

Chris Vasta is the president of The CPAP Shop and an expert in sleep and respiratory therapy. He often provides insights on product design and functionality on various manufacturers’ prototypes and is frequently tapped to provide reviews on new releases.