Ask Professor Bruce: The Value of Having a Backup CPAP Mask

PB3As an experienced CPAP user, I’ve grown to understand the importance and the value of having a second CPAP mask – a backup mask. Having backups of just about anything can be important – sheets, towels, batteries, coffee filters, computer files – so why wouldn’t you have a backup CPAP mask?  In the time that I have been undergoing CPAP treatment for my obstructive sleep apnea, I have used over 30 different masks. As a result, I can now safely say that the most comfortable mask for regular, nightly use is a nasal mask. In fact, most people use a nasal mask for this exact reason. Nasal masks are often much less restrictive and can offer a sense of more mobility and flexibility while sleeping. But what happens if you get a cold?



Colds Happen.

Colds can happen, but more specifically, runny noses can happen, which can leave you unable to use a nasal only CPAP mask. This is why it is so vital to have a full face mask on standby. A full face mask will allow you to receive CPAP through your mouth when your nose is temporarily out of commission. And it’s not just colds that can cause runny noses – springtime is just around the corner, which means that allergies may turn your nose into an unbearable snot spigot that you can’t turn off. So, now is really the best time to invest in a full face mask. Yet, not all full face masks are created equal, which is why you need to find a full face mask that fits the specific pressure settings of your CPAP machine.


To Comfort Gel or Not To Comfort Gel?


First of all, if you use one constant pressure setting on your CPAP, you can probably get away with using a regular full face mask. However, if you use a BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) machine, which administers dual levels of airway pressure, you may want to use a full face mask with a comfort gel lining such as the Amara Gel Full Face Mask. Comfort gel is simply a soft cushion that creates a more comfortable and conforming barrier between your skin and the CPAP mask. If you use a regular, non-gel mask with a BiPAP, or auto titrating CPAP machine, you will start to notice your mask doing what seems like push-ups on your face. Not only is this incredibly uncomfortable – it can also prevent you from getting a full night’s worth of CPAP treatment.

Another added bonus of using a full face mask with a comfort gel lining is that it can provide a tighter seal, which is important if you want to prevent air leaks. If you have a high pressure setting on your CPAP machine, these air leaks can not only prevent the full amount of pressure from being delivered through your mask, but they can also cause your mask to slip around, which can ultimately cause chaffing. The last thing you want when you have a cold is to have a CPAP mask shaped rash on your face. Another reason why you may want to choose a comfort gel mask when picking out a back up mask is because they can be harder to knock off your face when you are asleep, which can be beneficial if you have a tendency to go full Karate Kid in your sleep.

Make Sure To Get Used To Your CPAP Mask!



Lastly, it is important to note that regular CPAP masks and comfort gel full face masks can both have their advantages and disadvantages – it all depends on your specific CPAP settings and sleeping style. What is perhaps more important, though, is actually getting used to wearing your backup mask. The last thing you want is to get a cold, or stuffy nose, and realize that you haven’t broken your new mask in yet. So, you may want to spend some time with your new CPAP mask before you give it “backup” status. When it comes down to it, in this day and age, and especially for sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea, it isn’t so much about survival of the fittest as it is about survival of the most prepared. You may not realize it now, but when that first cold or allergy attack hits, you’ll definitely wish you had a second CPAP mask.