CPAP mask problems

5 Common CPAP Mask Problems and How to Solve them

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CPAP mask problems are not only frustrating, but they can also make it difficult or impossible for some CPAP users to stay on therapy.

Don’t use the discomfort as an excuse to quit CPAP therapy. Patients everywhere are experiencing the same CPAP mask problems you are. There are solutions and strategies to learn how to fall asleep with your mask on. You can do it, you just need the right tools and strategies.

Here are five common CPAP mask problems and how to solve them.

CPAP mask problems


Skin irritation, Sores and Bruises from Mask

No mask should cause pain nor discomfort if sized correctly and fitted properly. One of the most common mistakes CPAP users mask, is over tightening their CPAP mask, which leads to marks. Try loosening the straps and bit and let the mask form a seal when the air starts to flow. If you have to over tighten your mask to get a good seal, your mask cushion may be worn out and need replacing. Mask liners called MaskMate will also resolve skin irritation and other CPAP mask problems.


When the seal between your face and mask leaks, there can be a variety of causes.  If your mask has always leaked, the place to start may be selecting a different mask. There are several different types (nasal mask, nasal pillows, full-face mask, etc.) and lots of different brands.  It is important to make sure your mask is properly fitted and the straps are adjusted right. Experiment with adjusting your straps. Keep in mind that adjusting the headgear and mask too tight will often make leaks worse. Excess leak might also indicate a worn mask cushion that needs replacing. Masks are not designed to last forever. Periodically check your cushions for tears, or changes in texture and flexibility which can cause increased leaking. Replace them when necessary.  One of the fastest and most effective ways to stop leaks and other CPAP mask problems is to use MaskMate CPAP mask liners.


Patients who experience claustrophobia usually find that the small size and simplicity of nasal pillow masks more tolerable. It also often helps to try a mask that offers a clear field of vision. There is an adjustment period for most CPAP users as they get used to sleeping with any mask on the face. While your goal is to be able to sleep all night on CPAP, using it as long as you can tolerate it each night is better than nothing.

To reduce or eliminate feelings of claustrophobia, use your mask while you’re awake.  Practice by first just holding the mask up to your face without any of the other parts attached. Once you’re comfortable with that, try wearing the mask with the straps and without the hose connected.  Then attach the hose and turn your CPAP machine on at a low-pressure setting (with ramp feature turned on) and try holding the mask to your face and breathing without using the straps. And, finally, wear the mask with the straps and with the machine turned on.

By using your CPAP while you are awake, you send a message to the body that tells it that you’re choosing to use this therapy and that it’s okay and safe. Remind yourself that CPAP is keeping your airway open all night so that you can breathe and sleep normally.

Often a different mask that does not block your field of vision might help, try a different mask style.

Relaxation exercises, such as progressive muscle relaxation, also may help reduce your anxiety.

Dry Mouth

If you wake with a dry mouth, chances are that you sleep with your mouth open – don’t worry, a lot of CPAP users do this. CPAP therapy can cause slight dry mouth on it’s own, but if you sleep with your mouth wide open, the problem can be seriously exacerbated. In this case, you might benefit from getting a chin strap if you use a nasal mask or nasal pillows mask. You can also use a full-face mask to accommodate mouth breathing.

If you have dry mouth and a stuffy nose, you may want to discuss your nasal obstructions with your sleep specialist. CPAP therapy can be difficult while having nasal problems along with CPAP mask problems.

Heated humidification is very important to prevent CPAP dry mouth. Sleep doctors believe that everyone should benefit from heated humidification, especially those with mid to high range pressures.

You can also use Biotene products for dry mouth which include mouth sprays and gels, the gel seems to be most effective.

Dry or Stuffy Nose

Having a dry or stuffy nose as a result of wearing a CPAP mask is never fun. Doctors recommend that you use the heated humidifier function on the CPAP machine to raise the humidity levels. If the humidity levels are too low, your mucous membranes react by becoming inflamed and swollen, which creates dryness and stuffiness. If using the heated humidifier doesn’t work, try using a saline spray right before you go to bed. If the dryness and stuffiness continues, you ask your doctor about using a steroid nasal spray.

5 Common CPAP Mask Problems and How to Solve them

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2 thoughts on “5 Common CPAP Mask Problems and How to Solve them

  1. I am on my third mask and still having problems. The last two both put enough pressure on my sinuses that they cause numbness that lasts for several hours up to the entire day. It I loosen the straps it causes constant leaking.
    I use the heated humidifier set at 4. Any advise?

    1. Hi Kathleen, sorry for the late reply. The first thing you should do is have a CPAP therapist take a look at your data and settings. It could very well be a problem with your CPAP settings versus your mask. You should not have to wear your mask so tight that it causes discomfort.
      If you would like help from one of our therapists, please create a free account by clicking ‘Join’ then ‘CPAP Users’

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