How do you breathe at night? Through your nose? Or through your mouth? Before sleep apnea was on your radar, you probably never really thought about it. Oh, $10 says you probably just sat there breathing through your nose and then through your mouth to try and work out which one feels more natural. If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea through professional sleep studies and assessment, you may have a better idea which one it is. But why is it important? Well, it will dictate which variety of CPAP mask you are more likely to be suited to so that you will get the most our of your quality CPAP machine or BiPAP machine. And if it turns out you’re a mouth breather, you’re going to have to start looking at the full face mask. Don’t worry, these are not full face masks in the same sense as a welder or Storm Trooper. They just cover both the nose and the all important mouth. If that conjures up sensations of being smothered as you sleep, or ideas of discomfort through the night, don’t worry! This is our expert guide to CPAP masks for mouth breathers.
Why are CPAP masks for mouth breathers ‘full face’.
The other two variations of CPAP masks are the nasal mask and the nasal pillow mask. Both of which, as the name kind of points towards, administer their treatment via the nose. Which is all well and good if you’re a nose breather! But if you’re laid there at night with mouth wide open breathing away, you’re pretty much getting next to no treatment for your sleep apnea. So instead you’re going to need to be looking at the full face mask for your treatment. As mentioned though, these are nowhere near as scary as they might sound? And recent years has seen leading CPAP manufacturers really advance the technology of full face masks, meaning they are lighter, more flexible and more discreet than ever.
Potential problems for CPAP masks for mouth breathers
Actually, let’s start this bit with some great news! Full face masks, more often than not, will offer superior compliance when compared to their nasal cousins. Essentially that means, they are more efficient and offer a better level of treatment. Which makes sense; they cover both the mouth and nose and don’t rely on a tight seal around (or in) your nostrils. So as a mouth breather wearing a full-face CPAP mask, you are already on course for superior treatment. So what are the potential problems?
- feeling smothered. As mentioned, for some people the idea of wearing any mask at night may leave them feeling smothered, let alone the full face variety. But there are things you can do to lessen this sensation, and in time you’ll forget you’re wearing it! For example, try wearing the mask around the house during the day disconnected from the machine. Or you can focus your research on buying a mask that scores highly in comfort and a discreet design. In addition, be sure to use the ‘ramp’ feature on your CPAP machine (and if it doesn’t have one, make sure you get one that does!). This means that the air pressure that is coming through your mask starts at a very gentle setting, and slowly increases as you fall asleep. For many, it is not the mask itself that causes the claustrophobia but rather the air being pumped through the mask.
- more bits that may not fit! Essentially, because the mask is bigger, there are more areas that might not fit right. Either creating a poor seal or creating discomfort – or both! A lot of full face masks, as we’ll see, now have some very clever dynamic technology, and this technology allows for a really bespoke fit.
So, what are the best CPAP masks for mouth breathers?
You could probably guess this from the name, but this is the fourth generation full face mask from what is one of the biggest names in the world of CPAP treatment. Version 1, 2 and 3 were good. But what we have now is arguably the pinnacle in full face masks.
What we like:
- The best comfort. The best fit. Some full face masks are comfortable. Some fit well. Some give great compliance. The ResMed Mirage Quattro somehow manages to achieve all three. One reason is that it features the MircoFit dial. This allows the wearer to tweak the fitting of the mask with amazing accuracy. The mask also features the patented Mirage dual-wall cushion technology, allowing an amazing quality of seal without the need to over tighten the mask; too tight means a) less comfort, and b) you spend all the next day with a big red ring mark on your face. It is also one of the sleekest and slender full face masks your money can buy.
- Well vented. Thanks to the way this mask releases exhaled air, you’re not going to sound like a scuba-diver breathing through their regulator. Which is great for you as the wearer, especially if you don’t like the idea of being smothered by something noisily carrying air to and from your face. But it’s also great for anyone you share a bed with!
- It’s so easy. Snoring ABC believe all masks should have this feature, but sadly they don’t; find your perfect fit and clip settings and never need to change them again! A lot of full face masks need to be reset each night after you have taken them off each morning. Not with the ResMed Mirage Quattro! The settings remain in place even after you’ve taken the mask off.
- It works. Like, really well. On compliance tests, this mask scored highly. In fact, you’ll struggle to find better! So when you turn off the lights, you know your mask is delivering the best treatment that your CPAP machine can offer.
- It’s a quality product that lasts. Have you heard that phrase buy “cheap and you buy twice”? Well, the phrase here would go “buy moderately expensive and you buy once”. Doesn’t roll off the tongue but it’s true.
What we don’t like?
- The strap. You might prefer a less bold color for the strap.? This comes in a very blue version of blue and nothing else. But if that’s our only concern for this mask, you know you are looking at an industry leader.
This was the first name on our shortlist when we started mapping out this article, and rightly so. If you venture away from the ResMed Mirage Quattro, you better have a very good reason!
Not content with number one on this list, ResMed has also put together a mask to fill the number two spot.
What we like
- As soft as a kitten. This is the first mask to feature UltraSoft memory foam. Meaning that after a few nights of wearing this mask, it’s going to shape itself to fit your face and your face alone. Plus this foam, as the name suggests, is so soft you’ll forget you’re wearing some form of medical equipment.
- On/off in a flash. This mask allows you to remove the mask from your face without needing to disconnect the tubing thanks to its quick release elbow. It’s got some great magnetic clips that guide the headgear into the frame. So if you are up and down a lot in the night, removing your mask and putting it back on won’t be the mission that it would be with other masks.
- His and her’s! The for her version is designed for generally slightly smaller facial features, which increases the chance of a good fit and seal. If you prefer a lavender color, the for her version comes with that, ever so slightly sexist, variation.
What we don’t like
- Strapped in Both straps come round the face near the chin and cheek level. Other full face masks often have one strap on the chin and the other around the forehead. If you are struggling with the idea of being a bit smothered, having two straps around your face might add to that. But, these straps are so soft (as mentioned) we don’t think it’s going to be a problem for you.
As comfortable a full face mask as you could really wish for!
3. The Aspen Full Face Mask
A budget entry on our list if you are not looking to spend a lot!
What we like
- Comfort. Some cheaper full face masks often need to make compromises in the material they use, normally resulting in a loss of comfort. But you’ll be pleasantly surprised here. It doesn’t feel cheap!
- Tailor-made! OK, that’s a slight exaggeration but this has got a nice 5-pont adjustable headgear, meaning you can make tweaks to improve your comfort and the support you get. The forehead strap also has a SoftTouch wrap adding to the level of comfort you feel.
- Sshhh. The Aspen full face mask features a hushed exhalation port, so noise is kept to a minimum for both you and your bed companion
What we don’t like
- U-G-L-Y. It is a budget option, so don’t be expecting the sleekest, most attractive design. But if you’re ok with the fact that nobody can see you anyway when the lights are off then that’s not a problem.
A less expensive full face mask which for someone who isn’t going to need high-pressure treatments, and only suffers from mild sleep apnea. If you are looking for a more budget option, this is one to look at!
If you are a mouth breather and you do find yourself having to look into full face mask options, consider yourself lucky! There are some extremely comfortable masks on the market that will provide you with a level of treatment that the nasal variations could not, plus you don’t need to make sacrifices in comfort. Remember, for all things sleep apnea, check out the Snoring ABC guide giving you advice and pointers on all areas on the topic. You’ll find that here.
Written by Dr. Gilmore. Cara is an expert in getting a good nights sleep.