You've been diagnosed with sleep apnea and have a prescription from your primary care physician. Now, all you need is a CPAP machine and a mask. But how do you choose a CPAP mask? And what factors should you consider before making a decision? To make things a little easier, we've created this comprehensive guide: How to Choose a CPAP Mask.

What are the different types of CPAP masks?

There are three main types of CPAP masks—full-face CPAP masks, CPAP nasal masks, and CPAP nasal pillows.

Full-face CPAP mask

A full-face CPAP mask covers your mouth and nose and is held in place with a series of straps. It's the bulkiest mask type and is specifically designed for people who breathe through their mouths.

CPAP nasal mask

A CPAP nasal mask has a plastic shell that fits comfortably over your nose. It's held in place with a series of straps and allows the wearer to sleep comfortably in almost any position.

CPAP nasal pillow

A CPAP nasal pillow only covers your nostrils. This type of mask is ideal for people who have sensitive skin or lots of facial hair. You might also benefit from a CPAP nasal pillow if you experience claustrophobia.

What are some of the factors that affect the fit of a CPAP mask?

There are several factors that can affect the fit of your CPAP mask, including:

  • The width and length of your nose

  • The size, shape, and circumference of your head

  • If you have facial hair (and the amount)

  • If you wear dentures

  • Whether you breathe through your mouth or nose

  • The position you sleep in

  • The material the headgear, straps, and mask are made of (i.e. plastic, silicone)

It's also important to consider your level of movement during sleep. If you frequently toss and turn, you need a mask that allows for motion without risking a leak or compromising airflow.

How can I choose a CPAP mask based on my sleep position?

There are so many different types of CPAP masks out there, it can be difficult to choose one that aligns with your needs. One way to make a quick decision is to consider your sleep position.

Side sleepers

If you're a side sleeper, you need a mask with a tight seal that won't allow air to escape when the mask makes contact with your pillow. Nasal masks and nasal pillow masks are two excellent options. Whenever possible, select a model with soft, flexible straps made of fabric or silicone.

Back sleepers

If you sleep on your back, you can likely wear any type of CPAP mask. That's because the majority of CPAP masks are designed with back sleepers in mind. Still, the type of sleep apnea you have and the severity of your symptoms may affect treatment. Your doctor can make recommendations that align with your needs.

Stomach sleepers

If you're a stomach sleeper, choosing a CPAP mask can be especially challenging. For example, your mask could make contact with your pillow during sleep, causing a leak and preventing the CPAP machine from doing its job. In this instance, a nasal pillow mask is ideal. It's small and less likely to become dislodged, even if you move frequently.

Carewell Tip

If a nasal pillow mask isn't an option, there are specialty pillows available designed to accommodate full-face CPAP masks.

How do I make sure my CPAP mask fits?

There is no universal sizing chart for CPAP masks, so sizing varies greatly. Even so, most masks come with adjustable straps as well as varying cushion sizes that can be changed out.

When you first get your CPAP mask, put it on and try wearing it in several different positions. Lie on your back, side, and stomach. Then, sit up. Run the CPAP machine while changing positions, and make sure the mask stays put and prevents leaks. If you take the mask off and there are visible pressure marks, loosen the straps to prevent headaches.

When adjusting your CPAP mask, follow the manufacturer's instructions. If you still have questions or you're worried that your mask doesn't fit as it should make an appointment with your primary care physician. They can show you how to secure the perfect fit and even make recommendations for cleaning and preventive maintenance.

Do I need to clean my CPAP mask?

Yes. If you want to keep your CPAP mask in optimal condition, it's important to regularly clean it. Ideally, try to clean your mask every day. If that's not possible, clean it at least once a week.

Your mask makes direct contact with your skin. Your skin is oily, which causes dirt and bacteria to collect on your mask. Routine cleanings can cut through the grime, ensuring your mask functions at full capacity.

Check out our step-by-step guide on cleaning your CPAP machine here: A Beginner's Guide to CPAP Cleaning

We also carry a number of SoClean CPAP cleaning solutions here on the Carewell Website. If you have any questions about their use, please reach out to our friendly Care Team by calling (800) 696-CARE or sending an email to

We hope this guide to CPAP masks makes at-home therapy easier. With a comfortable mask that prevents leaks and maintains air pressure, you can get a more relaxing and rejuvenating sleep.

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.