Last updated: August 11, 2021

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Sleep apnoea masks are a therapy for obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS), in which those affected suffer from breathing pauses at night triggered by a narrowing of the airways. These bring with them various health risks, such as increased daytime sleepiness, a decline in cognitive performance and long-term consequences such as high blood pressure or heart rhythm disorders.

Often, sufferers are not aware of the dangers and leave the symptom untreated. By wearing a sleep apnoea mask at night, an overpressure is created by an electric compressor. The air flow is directed into the patient's airways through a tube system. This keeps the airways open and guarantees even breathing during the night.

Do you suffer from sleep apnoea? Then you too can restore your health with this method. In our large sleep apnoea test 2021 we present the most popular models of sleep apnoea masks and provide you with important information.




The most important facts

  • In the case of sleep apnoea, the affected person suffers from health-threatening interruptions in breathing during sleep. The sleep apnoea mask creates positive pressure and stabilises the patient's breathing.
  • An individual, well-fitting mask is the be-all and end-all for effective therapy. Depending on the needs and wishes of the patient, a wide variety of sizes and fits are available.
  • Many patients find it difficult to wear the mask consistently at first or even discontinue the therapy due to undesirable side effects. However, perseverance pays off, because there is currently no promising alternative for OSAS.

The Best Sleep Apnoea Mask: Our Picks

Sleep apnoea masks: buying and rating criteria

No one should compromise when it comes to their own health. Therefore, the choice of an individual mask should be well thought out in order to get the most benefit from the therapy. In the following, we will show you which criteria you should consider in order to make the best decision for you and your health.

It is important to take your time with each of these criteria and tailor them to your individual needs. The following explanations provide clarity on the different options.

Therapy pressure range

Depending on the severity of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome OSAS, different pressures are needed to maintain breathing. A specialist doctor can quickly determine the right pressure by performing appropriate tests. At this point, we advise you to consult a specialist in a sleep laboratory. The unit of measurement for therapy pressure is millibars.

Comfort

Later we will go into more detail about the different models of sleep apnoea masks. In general, however, the air flow is supplied either through the nose, the mouth or both. The size, length and fit of the tubes can also vary and be adjusted according to your own preference.

Everyone has to find out for themselves which constellation is best to tolerate the foreign body in the face. It is natural that most patients find this uncomfortable at first. However, we advise you to have confidence in the habituation effect - after a while, wearing the mask becomes much easier.

Freedom of movement

Back sleepers feel least restricted by the mask.

Unfortunately, it is not possible for movement to be completely undisturbed by the mask and its connection to the compressor. However, you have the freedom to find the most comfortable solution for you.

For patients who sleep on their backs a lot anyway, or who do not turn to the side much during sleep, most masks usually present very little restriction after the acclimatisation phase.

However, if you normally sleep on your stomach a lot, it may be necessary to purchase a specially adjusted mask. Again, we would like to refer you to the different models, which we will describe in detail after the last two decision criteria.

Volume

Basically, most masks are designed to work quietly. The prerequisite for this is that the mask is fitted without gaps and that no air escapes anywhere at the connection points of mask, tube and ventilator.

If you are particularly sensitive to noise, we advise you to look for the lowest possible decibel rating when buying your mask. Depending on the model and manufacturer, the noise level is between 10 and 30 decibels.

Material

Most sleep apnoea masks are made of soft silicone, which fits the face as snugly as possible. We recommend this material because, according to our research, it is rated most positively by patients. Allergy to medical silicone does not usually occur.

However, if you have a facial skin condition or hypersensitivity, we advise you to consult your dermatologist when purchasing your mask. If you are particularly prone to pressure points, there are also ways to increase the wearing comfort of the mask with small gel pads or other cushions.

Sleep apnoea masks: frequently asked questions and answers

Think you might be a candidate for sleep apnoea mask therapy yourself or want to know more about the topic? Below we will answer the most frequently asked questions.

Who is a sleep apnoea mask suitable for?

Sleep apnoea masks are specially made for people with OSAS (Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome). They are not a treatment for its causes, but treat the symptoms and restore the important regenerative function of sleep. It is important that the mask is worn throughout the night. This is a challenge for many patients at first, but it is necessary for effective therapy.

By wearing a sleep apnoea mask, patients regain an important part of their quality of life. (Image source: sbw18/ shutterstock)

What types of sleep apnoea masks are there?

First of all, a distinction is made between two different applications of the overpressure that flows into the patient's airways.
The type of therapy pressure is differentiated between CPAP and BIPAP.

The most common method is CPAP ventilation. CPAP stands forcontinuous positive airway pressure and is a form of ventilation in which the patient's spontaneous breathing is combined with a positive pressure in the lungs.

This is artificially induced by a special valve and is maintained during inhalation and exhalation. It is therefore a constant measure of steady pressure. There is also the less common BIPAP ventilation. BIPAP stands for bilevel positive airway pressure . Here, two different types of pressure occur.

The device tracks the number of breaths the patient takes and intervenes to generate pressure if the number falls below the minimum. This somewhat more complicated variant is often used for patients who need a higher air supply.

In addition, there are different forms in which the mask rests on the face.

Name Features Advantages Disadvantages
Nasal mask Airflow is supplied through a cushion encompassing the nose Standard solution with a lot of freedom of movement Unsuitable for mouth breathing
Full Face Mask The air cushion encompasses both nose and mouth Ideal for people who breathe through their mouth a lot at night or have other trial problems with their nasal breathing The freedom of movement is usually more restricted and there is a risk of pressure points due to the larger contact surface.
Nasal cushion mask The airflow is fed directly through the nostrils The mask is particularly suitable for claustrophobics due to the minimal contact This design is not compatible with a higher therapy pressure.

Basically, both CPAP and BIPAP work with these models.

What does a sleep apnoea mask cost?

The cost varies depending on the model and manufacturer. Nasal masks are the most widely sold and therefore the cheapest to buy.

  • Nasal mask: about 50 to 120 euros
  • Full-face mask: about 90 to 170 euros
  • Nasalpillow mask: about 80 to 120 euros

What are the alternatives to a sleep apnoea mask?

Depending on the severity of the OSAS, it may be possible to achieve improvement with other methods.
Alternative Description
Surgical methods The various interventions in the mouth and throat area depending on the cause of OSAS often involve the tonsils or the soft palate.
Tongue pacemaker This is the implantation of a battery-powered device whose electrical impulses are intended to prevent the tongue and the soft palate from falling back during sleep.
Behavioural therapy* Avoiding alcohol and nicotine and improving sleep hygiene can improve the symptoms of OSAS.
Positional therapy* For some types of OSAS, such as those caused by tongue base snoring, a change in sleeping position (using "anti-snoring pillows" or "anti-snoring bandages") can provide relief.
Lower jaw protrusion splints* These splints shift the lower jaw and thus also the base of the tongue forward by a few millimetres. This prevents the base of the tongue from falling back into the throat and closing the airways.

*Note: These non-invasive methods only have a chance of being effective in mild to moderate disease. Alternative forms of treatment are clearly inferior to therapy with a mask and are only effective in the case of a weakly pronounced clinical picture.

Even with surgical interventions, success rates are usually only 17 to 80 per cent. It is therefore worth giving respiratory therapy a serious chance.

Who pays for the sleep apnoea mask?

Normally, the health insurance company pays for the entire therapy equipment (device, tube and mask) in the form of an annual supply lump sum. However, the prerequisite for this is that the components have been prescribed in a sleep laboratory beforehand.

In some cases, home care by an assistant is also necessary, as elderly patients in particular cannot always manage their mask on their own and need help with the therapy. Ideally, this is also covered by the annual subsidy.

The nasal mask is the most common model among sleep apnoea masks. (Image source: Natalia Sokko / shutterstock)

However, due to the increasing numbers of people with sleep apnoea, health insurance companies may want to make savings in this area. The health insurance company itself concludes the contract with the company that provides the treatment device. In some cases, there are tenders that search for the company with the cheapest bid and then take this company as a customer.

What side effects can occur during therapy with a sleep apnoea mask?

Although the therapy with a sleep apnoea mask is very effective when used correctly and considerably improves both the quality of life and the life expectancy of the patient through a better regenerated body, one must first get used to its peculiarities. As with any other therapy, undesirable side effects may occur.

  • Breathingproblems: Breathing out against the airflow of the mask is more difficult than normal. Especially at the beginning of the therapy, this can cause night-time panic attacks or a feeling of suffocation. Chest or lung pain can also occur due to the increased breathing effort.
  • Intolerance of the pressure: Even the actual core of the treatment, the ventilation overpressure, is not always well tolerated. A feeling of bloating can occur due to the air supplied.
  • Dry mucous membranes: Some patients also complain of dry mucous membranes in the mouth and nose or a blocked nose due to artificial ventilation. In such cases, the problem can be solved by additionally humidifying the supplied air. Such humidifiers with integrated water tanks are usually included on the suppliers' pages.
  • Skin reactions: In addition, some patients experience pressure points on the face as well as skin reactions due to the foreign body. In this case, additional padding or a change of material can be used.

By carefully selecting and fitting the mask, undesirable side effects can be significantly reduced.

What acute conditions preclude the wearing of a sleep apnoea mask?

When using a sleep apnoea mask, the airways should be as free as possible so that the airflow can flow in undisturbed and exhaling against the overpressure is not too much for the body. In the case of a cough, a cold or similar illnesses, an attempt should therefore be made to clear the airways of mucus, e.g. with nasal drops.

If this is not successful, the therapy should be paused for a while. Before travelling by plane, it should be clarified beforehand whether the device can be used on board.

Conclusion

Therapy with a sleep apnoea mask is an effective method against symptoms of sleep apnoea syndrome. For an effective course, it is important to adjust the mask exactly according to the individual needs and to wear it consistently.

The sleep apnoea mask requires a certain amount of getting used to and can sometimes have unpleasant side effects, but perseverance pays off in this case.

Image source: sakphuket / 123rf

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