Sleep Apnoea Articles

7 Common CPAP mask problems & how to solve them

If you have a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine as a part of your sleep apnoea therapy, it goes without saying that you’ll get the most from your therapy by keeping it regular and consistent.

Consistency comes from using the machine during every sleep as instructed and keeping as close to a routine as is feasible.

While a CPAP Machine can offer relief and a better night’s sleep, it’s not without its minor challenges too. Most commonly, CPAP users can encounter issues with the mask. If you’re experiencing any issues with your mask, we’ve listed seven common concerns around CPAP masks, and how you can solve them, so you can focus on getting a great night’s rest.

The mask plays a major role in the functioning of the CPAP machine, and as it is the only part of your therapy with direct contact to your skin, it is the one part that most people have questions about. Here, we look at all of the common mask problems and, more importantly, how to solve them so you can get the most out of your nightly treatment.

What are the most common CPAP mask concerns?

  1. My CPAP mask doesn’t fit me quite right

Finding the perfect mask that fits your face well is essential in achieving effective results when using it on CPAP therapy for Sleep Apnoea treatment. That’s because having a CPAP mask that is the correct shape for your face not only ensures comfort to assist with consistent use, it also makes the mask work correctly each time you sleep.

Solution One: Learn How To Put On Your CPAP Mask

Your mask may not fit you correctly if you are not putting on the headgear in the right manner. Small adjustments can make all the difference when it comes to comfort and effectiveness, so whether you’re new to therapy or are adapting to a new mask, ask your medical professional to show you the best way to put on your mask so that it fits perfectly to the contours of your face as it is designed to do. At ResMed’s sleep clinics in London and Oxfordshire, you can book in for a mask fitting appointment any time.

Solution Two: Take Your Time To Find The Right CPAP Mask

It’s worth investing the time to find the right CPAP mask which fits you comfortably and correctly. When you see your medical professional, they will help you trialling and choosing the right mask, it’s important at this stage to vocalise any concerns, however minor as it’s important to ensure you feel comfortable and after all, only you will know the answer to this.

Solution Three: Adjust For Facial Changes Over Time

Your face can naturally change over time, whether you’re losing or gaining weight, or growing a beard, this can have an impact on your mask fit. If that happens, don’t just put up with the ill-fitting mask, as it can cause discomfort and issues with your treatment, consider purchasing a new mask that better suits your current needs. ResMed offers a mask fitting service at our clinics in London and Oxfordshire.

  1. My CPAP mask is leaking

If you can hear or feel air leaking from your mask, this should not be ignored as not only can it cause discomfort and keep you awake, it can also mean that your therapy is being compromised. The way your CPAP machine works to overcome Sleep Apnoea each night is by using air pressure to keep your throat open throughout the hours of sleep so that there is a constant stream of air going into your airways. The loss of that air pressure due to a leak in a seal can therefore mean that the treatment is not working effectively, if at all.

In other words, if you’re on CPAP therapy and doing everything right in terms of consistency, you will still not be getting the full benefit and possibly even no benefit if you’re not quick to address mask leak.

Solution One: Mask Fitting

This lies in ensuring the mask is fitting your face snugly to create an air pressure seal. If you feel that there is a seepage of air, or you find that your pre-therapy symptoms return, it’s time to get your medical professional to check whether your mask fits correctly and is not leaking.

We understand this can be inconvenient, however there’s no point in going to the trouble of using your CPAP machine if it is not working for you, especially when it’s such an easy fix.

Solution Two: Replace Your CPAP Mask

Over time, masks experience normal wear and tear which can lead to a misshapen form. Natural skin oils as well as creams and make-up can all contribute to wear on the seal, leading to discomfort and leaks. CPAP masks are consumables that should be replaced regularly to ensure that your treatment remains effective every time you wear the headgear. To ensure you get the best use from your mask it’s important to clean it regularly. If you have a ResMed AirSense 10 device and are registered for myAir, you can find plenty of help videos and guides to help with mask maintenance, otherwise you can visit the ResMed website and type your mask model into the search bar to find help videos and information.

  1. My mask is making my nose stuffy or dry

Some people on CPAP therapy can experience nasal and sinus issues, such as a dry or stuffy nose when exposed to the air coming from the CPAP mask.

Solution: Use A Heated Humidifier For Your CPAP Machine

Most CPAP machines now come with a heated humidifier device included or as an optional extra. This is specifically designed to increase the moisture levels in the air being delivered and should help reduce dryness in your airways and can even solve it altogether. Find out more about humidification here.

  1. The CPAP mask’s air pressure is uncomfortable

For some, getting used to the continual air being blown through the mask can be difficult. Understandably so, as it doesn’t feel very natural, especially when you are just beginning treatment. Tolerating the air stream while trying to rest may be a little uncomfortable. Some people can also find it difficult to exhale against the pressure.

Solution: Use The Sleep Onset Detection Function (AutoRamp)

Some CPAP devices have a Sleep Onset Detection feature where the machine will begin at a low pressure and won’t ramp up to your prescribed pressure until the device detects that you have fallen asleep. On ResMed devices, this feature is called AutoRamp. What this means is, while you are lying in bed with the headgear on, you won’t experience the full pressure of the air until after you have drifted off and are no longer actively aware when the airflow increases. This can greatly ease the feeling of discomfort, while ensuring your treatment is effective. Find out more about ResMed’s AutoRamp function.

  1. The mask’s connecting tube is bothering me

Sometimes it’s not the mask itself, but the tube behind it that can create the problem. While the tube is an essential part of your treatment because it connects the mask to the CPAP machine, it can often be inconvenient and get in the way during the night.

Solution One: ResMed’s CPAPmax 2.0 pillow

If you are getting frustrated by the tube connecting your mask to your CPAP therapy machine, you can look at what pillow you’re using. ResMed’s CPAPmax 2.0 pillow molds to your facial features and the removable layers allow you to change your pillow height to achieve the best possible support and comfort by properly aligning your head, neck and spine. The pressure-free side cut-outs reduce mask interference and a hose-tether allows your air hose to move with you throughout the night without pulling on your mask causing it to shift or leak.

Solution Two: Use a hose lift

ResMed’s CPAP Hose Lift V5 is a strong, lightweight system that prevents your air tubing getting tangled or tugging on your mask while you sleep. It provides great overhead clearance for your tubing, but packs down small for travelling.

  1. My CPAP mask is annoying me every time I use it

Frustration with CPAP treatment is unfortunate, but very normal. We understand that it can be disheartening and trying on your patience knowing that you have to wear a mask and a machine on a long term basis. Patients often become fed up having to put on the headgear nightly.

Solution: Focus On The Positive Aspects Of Your CPAP Treatment

If you have been prescribed CPAP therapy, the chances are that you started your journey with symptoms having a serious effect on your day-to-day life. Focusing on the positive health benefits of your treatment over the inconvenience of the mask will help reassure you as to why you are doing this every night. It sounds trivial, but it’s important to recognise what you’re getting out of your CPAP therapy and by focusing on how much better you feel each day after a solid night’s sleep with the CPAP machine, versus how you were before the treatment will help reinforce why you are doing this in the first place.

  1. My mask makes me feel claustrophobic

When you first wear a mask on your face, especially while resting, it is possible that you may feel odd or a little discomfort. After all, when it’s in use, your CPAP mask is strapped to your face, blowing streams of air into your mouth and airways to help keep your throat clear all night. This experience may feel unsettling for some users new to CPAP therapy.

Solution One: Try An Alternative Type Of CPAP Mask

For some patients, the mask’s design and size can be a little intimidating. This is more commonly true for full-face masks, because it covers a lot of your face while being a little heavy. If this is happening to you, we often recommend trying a different type of mask, known as a nasal pillow mask. They fit directly into the base of your nose with pillow-type cushions which seal around your nostrils. Many people prefer the nasal pillow masks as they are smaller, lighter and quieter.

These mask designs are ultimately less intrusive and make a user feel more at ease than the larger mask types, and many find they are able to overcome their initial claustrophobia by switching to nasal pillow CPAP masks.

Find more information about our pillows masks and our nasal masks.

Solution Two: Introduce The CPAP Mask In Stages

The solution may lie in breaking down the use of the mask into stages so you can get used to it.

Instead of immediately strapping the mask to your face and turning on the air – which can be quite intimidating – try simply holding it to your face first. Wait a few moments until you are comfortable with its presence. Next, turn on the pressurised airflow and slowly acclimatise yourself to that sensation too. After this, the next step is to finally strap the headgear on and see how you feel.

By breaking down the introduction of the mask into stages, you can ease yourself into getting comfortable with the mask. Give it a try and see if it helps!

Solution Three: Wear The CPAP Mask Outside Of Bed

If you’ve ever been skiing, or bought a new pair of hiking boots before embarking on a long trek, you’ll be familiar with the phrase ‘wearing in’. This process can also be applied to CPAP therapy. You can try wearing the headgear while performing daily tasks and chores such as cleaning, watching television or reading. The activity will distract you, while you get more accustomed to the feeling and weight of the mask.

Solution Four: Use The Sleep Onset Detection Function On Your CPAP Device

The Sleep Onset Detection feature is available on some CPAP devices. On ResMed devices, this feature is called AutoRamp. This function waits until it detects that you have fallen asleep before administering your overnight therapy. What this means is, while you are lying in bed with the headgear on, you won’t experience the full pressure of the air until after you have drifted off and no longer actively aware when the airflow increases. This can greatly ease the feeling of discomfort, while ensuring your treatment is effective. This can reduce the sense of claustrophobia by slowing increasing the air pressure, rather than having it on maximum all at once.

Solution Five: Take Small Naps With The CPAP Mask In Place

This is another way to get acclimatised to your CPAP mask in order to reduce the feeling of claustrophobia. Try napping with the CPAP headgear on for short periods on a couch or some other location that isn’t your normal bed. The shorter time and different location can allow you to feel more at ease about wearing it, and break down the sense of fear.

Solution Six: Speak To the team at ResMed UK

If you have tried the solutions above but you are still having issues with claustrophobia speak to our team or your medical professional about these issues. We’re available during normal office hours on 0800 917 7071. Our trained staff will be able to help you through.

Are you having issues with your CPAP treatment?

While a lot of CPAP mask issues can be fixed at home, we recommend regular reviews with your healthcare professional to ensure that you are getting the most from your sleep apnoea treatment. The sleep specialists at ResMed UK can provide you with a detailed look at your therapy data from your CPAP device to see if treatment is working for you.

Having regular check-ups where your therapy data is downloaded and reviewed will allow the identification of trends, so you can see exactly how it’s working. We can also inform your GP of any updates.

ResMed’s clinics in London and Oxfordshire offer an annual review, mask fits and free product demonstrations. If you want to find out more contact the ResMed UK team.

16 thoughts on “7 Common CPAP mask problems & how to solve them

  1. I have been using crap for nearly 4 years, I was a restless sleeper, prior to using it.
    My restlessness seems to have returned, consequently the mask hose is often pulled out!
    This wakes me up but as it can happen 3 or 4 times a night means sleep disruption.
    Is the effectiveness wearing off due to continued usage, should I stop using it every night in order to regain its effectiveness?

    1. There may be a number of reasons why your restlessness has returned, however please do not stop your CPAP treatment. If you are registered with a Sleep Clinic we would recommend you get in touch with them and ask they review your treatment. Depending on which device you use it may be you need some settings altered to ensure you continue to receive effective treatment, or perhaps your mask or tube is in need of replacement. Masks generally last around a year therefore if it is older than this it will likely have deteriorated meaning you may not be receiving optimum treatment. If you would like us to review your treatment privately, we offer an Annual Review service at both our ResMed Clinics. Masks can also be purchased from us directly if you are unable to receive these through the NHS. For more details click here or alternatively for any further advice or information please call our ResMed UK team on 0800 917 7071.

  2. I have had a cpap machine with an airfit F20 mask for 17 months, the mask is now problematic and my overall counts fluctuates daily where up to a month ago it was in the mid to high 90,s … can you suggest anything for me

    1. Hi Delwyn, many thanks for your question and sorry to hear you’re having problems. Ordinarily, with regular maintenance we recommend you change your mask every 12 months as the seal can deteriorate with time, therefore it sounds like your mask may be in need of replacement. Another suggestion would be to have an annual review of your therapy which can be undertaken privately at one of our ResMed clinics in London or Oxfordshire, or if you are an NHS patient, your sleep clinic should have been in contact with you for a review. This would help identify any issues and give you the opportunity to discuss them. If you like the AirFit F20, you might also like to try out our AirTouch mask which is designed to fit the F20 headgear and frame, but with a replaceable memory foam cushion. You can find out more about the 2 masks and how they compare here. For any further advice or information please call the ResMed UK team on 0800 917 7071.

  3. Hi, I am new to CPAP and had a great first few days where I woke up feeling as though I had actually slept for the first time in as long as I can remember. However as the weeks have gone on I am sleeping again in the afternoon and feeling sleepy an hour after I wake. I had an AHI of 22 which my sleep centre said was mild and they wouldn’t normally treat but due to my excessive daytime sleepiness they have allowed me a trial. I have the full face mask which I find comfortable and my machine is the S9 escape. I am using on average 7.5 hours per night. Is it possible the titration study has me set on the incorrect pressure and would switching to a machine such as the Airsense10 autoset for her be a way of combatting the incorrect setting as this titrates at the required amount based on assessing your breathing pattern?. Thank you in advance.

    1. Thanks for getting in touch; it sounds like you have made a great start to your treatment. As your daytime sleepiness has returned we certainly would recommend you get in touch with your Sleep Clinic and ask they review your overall treatment and pressure on the S9 Escape as from what you describe it sounds like this may need to be increased so you continue to receive optimum treatment. The AirSense 10 AutoSet is an automatic pressure device and responds by delivering the appropriate level of pressure when you sleep, so this certainly would be a solution. We would suggest you discuss this with your Sleep Clinic to find out if this is something they can supply you. If not, you can purchase this privately from us, full information can be found here. For any further advice or information please call our ResMed UK team on 0800 917 7071.

  4. My husband is new to the treatment… a god-send after living with him, with it for over 15years…quieter nights and less sofa naps amongst everything else, but consistently is an issue! I have looked through the common problems and your suggested solutions and need some advice..
    He feels claustrophobic- he and I both realise that it will take time, some nights are better than others! I try and gently remind him of the positives. Then his mask sometimes leeks – it wakes me up but not necessarily him. I daren’t wake him as I feel he may abandon the mask for the rest of the night… but am concerned the full benefits are lost with the leaking? 3rdly he complains of a dry throat, even with a humidifier, again this is on and off… some nights better than others. Is there anything else you can suggest? Something to lubricate his throat other than just having some water. At times he says he feels like his throat just closes up and he chokes and can’t breath, this then compounds the claustrophobia and he has to abandon treatment for the remainder of the night. (Bad all round as he doesn’t then get good sleep and neither do I… massive snoring and apnea episodes). Finally he was advised, I believe, that 4hours was good enough to have the mask on each night?! Surely with severe sleep apnea you can’t truly ‘survive’ or function properly or feel the full/ normal benefits of a normal/good 6-8 hours sleep if you only have a good 4hrs due to the CPAP?! Surely he needs to stick with it for a minimum of 6hrs or at least aim for that – to actually get the benefits and feel refreshed, rested etc. I know I CAN survive on 4 hrs (I don’t have sleep apnea) but I am tired, moody and physically and mentally do not function as well! I definitely NEED more than 4hrs!
    Any suggestions or advice would be gratefully appreciated.

    1. Great that your husband has started treatment for his OSA. It is perfectly normal to take some time getting used to wearing a mask each night; initially some nights may be better than others. To minimise mask leak, make sure the mask is not being fitted too tightly and is being hand washed daily using warm water and a little basic washing up liquid. Avoid using products containing moisturisers such as hand soaps and baby wipes as these will make the mask greasy which in turn will cause more leak. Depending on which device your husband uses, it may compensate for air lost through leak by increasing the pressure. If not, his Sleep Clinic should be able to monitor his treatment data and make adjustments to the pressure if necessary. If he still finds treatment drying, he may want to increase the humidity setting but if he is still really struggling he really ought to discuss this further with his Sleep Clinic. Regarding usage, we suggest that patients need a minimum of 4 hours treatment to receive minimal benefit from therapy, however the longer a patient uses a device the better the treatment and benefit of therapy. Ideally, aiming for between 6 to 8 hours is preferable to gain the most benefit from treatment. For any other general advice, please get in touch with the ResMed UK team on our free phone number, 0800 917 7071.

  5. I have a ResMed VPAP machine with a H5i Humidifier. Does this machine help bring the concentrated oxygen through the plastic line when you breath. I thought mine used to do that but now it is getting airflow at a constant pace.
    .

    1. Hi Brian. Thanks for your question. Additional oxygen will only be received if supplemental oxygen is added to the circuit from a cylinder. You may have been advised that ventilation will improve your oxygen levels but this is due to it recruiting areas of the lung rather than adding additional oxygen above room air. For more specific advice, please contact your Sleep Clinic.

  6. After 8 months of use with no problems I now have one that is ruining my sleep. After 4 or 5 hours of use there is a vibration or thumping in the pillow or mask when I exhale. I keep adjusting the mask but nothing seems to work. What’s going on here?

    1. Sorry to hear of the issue with your treatment. To be able to assist you further we would really need to understand which specific device and mask you are using. If at all possible, please contact us directly by free phone on 0800 917 7071 or email operationsuk@resmed.co.uk with this information, and we will do our best to help.

  7. I’ve had my resmed air sense machine for about 1 month, or two. Anyways, it said on the machine that it detects air leaks. I never felt any air coming out, of the ordinary?

    1. It is normal for your device to report on air leak, and it is usually air that has leaked as a result of poor mask fit although it can also be due to a hole in your tubing. You may not always be aware of air leaking, especially if it is only minor and you are in a deep sleep. However, the data you will see either on your device or within myAir will provide more information as to the level of air leak so you know if this is something you need to address. If you would like more specific advice, please do not hesitate to call us on our free phone number 0800 917 7071.

  8. I’m having a problem with my AirFit F20 it is a very comfortable mask but I sleep with my mouth open which causes my throat to dry out within a couple of hours. Is there anyway to avoid this problem ?? Previously I used a chin strap (elastic type) to keep my mouth closed, but it seems a problem wearing a chin strap and then a nose cushion on top of that. Its just too many layers and somewhat uncomfortable, but the full face mask AirFit F20 is very comfortable by itself but does not protect me from drying my throat out within 2 hr period; unfortunately I cannot use the F20 by itself because I can’t keep my mouth closed. It gets so dry that my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. Please help me, any solutions or fixes for me ??????

    1. It is possible to use a chin strap with a full face mask if you want to encourage your mouth to remain closed at night, however a full face mask is specifically designed to accommodate an open mouth, thus will continue to effectively treat you as and when your mouth drops open at night so you shouldn’t need to use a chin strap. If your issue is you are finding the treatment too drying on your airways, it sounds like you would definitely benefit from humidification with your CPAP device. If you already have a humidifier with your CPAP, it may be you simply need to turn it up to the highest level to get the most relief. If you don’t have a humidifier, assuming your equipment is supplied from a Sleep Clinic we would recommend you discuss this with them to see if they can provide one. Alternatively if you buy your equipment privately and you have a ResMed CPAP device, we can provide you more information on the compatible humidifier if you call us free on 0800 917 7071 or via email operationsuk@resmed.co.uk

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