Do you experience mask leaks while using your CPAP machine for sleep apnea? There could be a few reasons for this, and even the small leaks are important when it comes to your CPAP therapy. If you are experiencing leaks, this means that air is escaping from your mask and you aren’t getting the proper air pressure you need to treat your sleep apnea. The consequences of masks leaks can range from mild annoyances like dry eyes and red marks on your face due to tight straps, to serious issues like decreased compliance and premature malfunctioning of your expensive CPAP equipment.
There are two types of CPAP mask leaks – seal leaks and mouth leaks. A leak in your CPAP mask seal is the most common cause of leaking and occurs when the air from the machine escapes from between your face and your mask. A mouth leak is pretty much exactly what it sounds like –breathing through your mouth which causes air pressure to exit instead of entering your lungs. Statistics suggest that 45% of people end up giving up on CPAP therapy that can save their lives and improve their sleep due to issues with mask leaks. We’ll take a look at a few simple solutions to stop these potentially dangerous and always annoying leaks which are impacting the effectiveness of your treatment and compromising the quality of your sleep.
Causes of CPAP Mask Leaks and How to Fix Them
Get the Right Fit - The first step in preventing mask leaks is going to be at your mask fitting with your home medical equipment provider or in your respiratory therapist’s office. A poorly fitting mask is one of the most common causes of CPAP mask leaks and a proper fit is essential to maintaining your compliance. You should make sure that you try your mask on in front of your clinician so that necessary adjustments can be made without over tightening your straps, which can lead to sores, irritation, and unsightly red lines. Having your clinician observe you putting your mask on will allow them to determine if you are pulling the mask on in the wrong direction or putting the mask on upside down, both things that could cause significant leaks to occur. It is also a good idea to lie down while fitting your mask, as your mask fit may change depending on your position. Since you’ll be using your CPAP therapy at night in bed, it is essential that you are aware of how the mask will fit and feel when you are laying down.
Keep it Clean - Once you’ve got a proper fit on your mask, you’ll want to make sure to keep it clean with both daily and weekly maintenance. A clean mask is critical in maintaining a proper mask seal at night. You should be washing your mask cushion quickly each morning with a mild soap, baby shampoo, or CPAP mask wipes designed for daily cleaning of your mask and cushions. Do not use antibacterial soap, as this can dry out the plastic in your mask, causing it to become less flexible and more prone to leaks. You should also do a weekly, more thorough cleaning, taking your entire machine apart and washing your entire mask and hose in mild soap and water.
Shut Your Mouth - Mouth leak can be a trickier problem to solve and potential solutions include using a chin strap or choosing a full face mask. If you are waking up with a dry mouth, you could be experiencing mouth leak and should try a chin strap if you find that tolerable or reach out to your home medical equipment provider to discuss a full face mask if you’ve been using a nasal mask.
Change Your Pillow - Another thing to consider if you are experiencing mask leaks is your sleeping position. Side sleepers using a traditional bed pillow may find their masks pushing uncomfortably against their face and breaking the seal between their mask and face. Back sleepers using a traditional pillow that is the incorrect height increases the occurrence of mouth leaks. You may have success trying a pillow specifically designed for sleeping with a CPAP machine, such as the CPAPMax 2.0 Pillow from Contour Living. This pillow solves posture problems that cause mask leaks whether you are a back or side sleeper. Side cut outs prevent pressure from being applied to your mask and removable foam layers allow you to find the perfect pillow height for proper airway alignment.
Keep Your Hose in Place - You may also want to research using a CPAP tube holder or finding a pillow with a built in CPAP tube holder. Movement during the night can tug and pull at your CPAP hose, which could also contribute to leaks.
Considering how important CPAP therapy is to good health and getting enough sleep, no CPAP patient can afford to ignore mask leaks. If you are struggling with mask leaks and these simple solutions don’t seem to do the trick, we recommend having a qualified professional look over your machine, mask, and hose. You may need to have your pressure adjusted or a different type of mask. Have you come up with other clever solutions to stop pesky mask leaks? Let us know about them in the comments below!