cpap masks nasal full face pillow

Types of CPAP Masks For Sleep Apnea Patients

This post was originally posted on October 2, 2020, and updated on May 3, 2022.

When beginning CPAP therapy, selecting the right mask can mean the difference between compliance and non-compliance. CPAP masks come in different types to provide comfort for a variety of users. With so many options, it can be overwhelming to choose which one suits you best. But, it's important to make sure each user gets the best mask to suit their needs, as patients are more likely to stop their treatment if their therapy isn't comfortable. Facial contact, a secure seal, and overall comfort are just some of the factors that make CPAP masks so different. This guide will help you make an informed choice when selecting your mask.

Types of Sleep Apnea Masks 

CPAP masks are broken down into three types – full face, nasal, and nasal pillows. Full face masks typically cover both the mouth and nose. Nasal masks cover or cradle the nose and nasal pillow masks are inserted directly into the nostrils. Every user has their own mask preference for comfort. The following sections will further break down the differences in these masks.

Full Face Masks

ResMed Quatro Air CPAP mask.

Traditional full face masks completely cover the nose and the mouth. This allows users the option to breathe through either. Some full face masks include a forehead stabilizer that helps improve the cushion seal for active sleepers. The headgear typically provides four points of contact for stability and making adjustments more easily.

Though sometimes considered "bulkier" than other masks, some users prefer them because the wider surface area helps spread the air pressure out to make CPAP therapy more comfortable. Some manufacturers have recently redesigned their full face masks to sit underneath the user’s nose. These designs greatly reduce facial contact and eliminate the feelings of claustrophobia some full face users experience. 

 Full Face Masks Are Best For:

  • Mouth breathers
  • Back sleepers
  • Those with nasal congestion problems
  • Users with prescriptions that require a higher pressure setting

Top-Selling Full Face Masks

Nasal Masks

Philips Respironics DreamWisp Nasal CPAP Mask with Headgear (front  view)

Nasal masks are smaller than full face masks and cover or cradle the nose. Usually, they are triangular or oval shaped to sit just around the nose. It is held in place by headgear that goes around the rest of a user's head. These masks offer minimal contact with the face while still creating a secure seal and stable headgear. A nasal mask is best suitable for users who naturally breathe through only their nose, and not their mouth.

Nasal masks deliver indirect airflow to your nasal area, but not directly into your nostrils like a typical nasal pillow mask would. This type of mask can also sustain a higher pressure setting than a nasal pillow mask. Additionally, users who experience claustrophobia with full face masks may want to try a nasal mask as they are traditionally less bulky.

Nasal CPAP Masks Are Best For: 

  • Users with prescriptions that require a higher pressure setting
  • Active sleepers
  • Users with unique facial shapes

Top-Selling Nasal Masks

Nasal Pillow Masks

main product photo

Nasal pillow masks sit underneath the nose and use two soft pillows that sit inside the nostrils to provide direct airflow. The pillows slightly inflate to create a secure seal and comfortable therapy into the airflow. The unique and slim shape of nasal pillow masks allow for a less intrusive feel on the face, but still deliver effective performance.

This type of mask also is great because having it directly inside a user's nostril minimizes the risk of potential air leaks throughout the night. They offer a much more minimal design than traditional full face and nasal masks. Similar to nasal masks, this type of mask is particularly suitable for users who do not breathe through their mouth and only their nose. Some users, however, do not like the feeling of the cushion sitting inside their noses. This direct airflow may also dry out a user’s nasal passage more quickly than other masks.

Nasal Pillow Masks Are Best For:

  • Users who find full face masks claustrophobic
  • Users with facial hair
  • Users who wear glasses and wear their mask while watching TV or reading

Top-Selling Nasal Pillow Masks

Hybrid CPAP Masks

Although less popular than traditional CPAP masks, Hybrid CPAP masks offer an alternative to patients who are having difficulty finding a comfortable mask because of their breathing patterns. Hybrid CPAP masks are traditionally known as full face masks and nasal pillow masks combined.

For example, the ResMed Mirage Liberty CPAP mask effectively combines features of both nasal pillow masks and full face masks. This type of masks seals over the mouth, but under the nose. This allows patients to breathe through the nose and through the mouth comfortably. Patients consider using this type of masks when they require a full face mask but do not the bridge of their nose covered.

Oral CPAP Masks 

As an alternative to full face masks, oral CPAP masks create a secure seal around the mouth. Oral CPAP masks offer a unique fit that uses a mouthpiece to secure the mask into place. These masks do not require the use of headgear, making them active sleeper friendly. They are particularly helpful for people with an injury or deviated septum which makes it harder to breathe through their nose.

Oral masks like the Fisher & Paykel Oracle 452 Oral CPAP Mask deliver air pressure only through a mouthpiece. The mask has been clinically proven to treat OSA and offers a viable alternative to a full face mask, with less structure against the face.

Where Can I Buy a Sleep Apnea Mask?

Whether you are shopping for your first CPAP mask, or want to try something different, The CPAP Shop offers easy at-home shopping on our website. Find a variety of the best-selling CPAP masks from top-selling manufacturers. Have questions? Our knowledgeable customer care team is standing by to assist you in finding the best mask for your needs. Call them at 866-414-9700 or reach out via email at

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.