Nasal pillow CPAP masks are among the smallest and lightest CPAP masks available today, taking up far less facial surface area than its nasal or full face mask cousins. Instead of using a cushion, nasal pillow masks use two soft and pliable pillows that are about the size of blueberries. These pillows seal around the base of each nostril, providing direct access to your airway. With a nasal pillow mask, you can wear glasses, watch T.V., or read a book before bed. Nasal pillow masks are also flexible and make it possible to toss and turn easily without getting tangled in your tubing. It's a win-win for active sleepers. People who suffer from claustrophobia may benefit from a nasal pillow CPAP mask. Since there's such a small surface area, you won't feel closed in or cut off.
Nasal pillow masks and nasal masks may seem like they're closely related, however, they should not be confused. To better illustrate the differences between nasal masks and nasal pillow masks, we've created this handy chart to highlight the differences between each type.
Nasal pillow masks have many benefits and a few drawbacks that you should be aware of as you make your decision regarding whether to go with a nasal mask or a nasal pillow mask.
Nasal pillow masks differ from nasal prong masks, which actually penetrate the nostril. Nasal prong masks are typically used when nasal pillow masks can't create a good enough seal for the wearer. Nasal prong masks are rarely prescribed and are usually the last resort. Most doctors will try a nasal mask to see if that works before resorting to a nasal prong mask.
There Are Two Main Types of Nasal Pillow Masks:
Most nasal pillow masks will use this design. Short tubes provide improved flexibility and freedom of movement by extending out the spot where the CPAP hose meets the mask. This makes it possible to toss and turn in your sleep and not create excess tugging on the nasal pillows. Using a short tube reduces the amount of bulk in the front of the mask, allowing you to sleep on your side more comfortably. Some people may be able to get away with stomach sleeping thanks to the short tube, but each mask is different and there's no guarantee that stomach sleeping will be possible in every case.
Here Are Some Examples of Nasal Pillow Masks That Use a Short Tube:
Like full face and nasal masks, nasal pillow masks also have a few masks that use a hollow frame design. Nasal pillow hollow frame designs have a hose that connects to the crown of the head. The frame is hollow and acts as a conduit to direct the air to the pillows in the front of the mask. By having the hose connection on the crown of the head, you can turn and shift to your heart's content and not need to choose between a mask and your comfort.
Here Are Some Examples of Nasal Pillow Masks That Use a Hollow Frame:
Finding Your Most Comfortable Fit
While many nasal pillow masks follow a familiar pattern, no two masks are exactly alike, meaning finding your ideal fit may be tricky when switching to a new mask. There are two ways you can find the perfect fit when shopping for a new nasal pillow mask.
Fit Packs are masks bundles that include cushions in all sizes, making it easy to try different sizes to find the one that works best for you. Once you've identified your ideal size, you can order replacement pillows in the same size. Ordering a Fit Pack is truly the most convenient way to determine the best nasal pillow mask size for you.
Some masks package a sizing guide along with the other parts when you buy a new mask. If you find one, save it! It will help you in the future as you buy replacement pillows. If you don't already have a sizing guide for your favorite mask, you can either look on the CPAP.com product page. Once you've found the sizing guide for your mask, print it out and use it to measure your nose to find the right size for you.
Almost every mask has its share of pain points, whether you're going with a durable full face mask or a sleek nasal pillow mask. Here are some of the most common pain points for nasal pillow masks based on customer reviews.
If you use higher therapy pressures, this may inadvertently cause a sore nose when using a nasal pillow mask. Using a barrel cozy adds a layer of softness where the silicone touches the nostrils and may help reduce the soreness. If you use an auto-adjusting machine, you can also try setting it to CPAP mode as a way of keeping the pressure more predictable throughout the night, making it less likely to spike in a way that hurts your nose.
Nasal pillow masks are among the least invasive masks thanks to their small footprint. Due to its small stature, it's the least likely of the three main mask types to cause red marks. If you get red marks from your mask, consider purchasing mask strap pads, which wrap your headgear straps in a layer of pillowy softness. This creates a buffer between your face and the straps, reducing the likelihood that red marks will form.
There are three sources of noise with any CPAP setup: machine noise, humidifier noise, and mask noise. Generally, the humidifier will make the least amount of noise, followed by the mask, and then the machine. Mask noise is mostly caused by the exhaust air as it exits the mask, and thanks to the development of next-generation diffusers, the updated designs have greatly reduced the noise. If your mask is making too much noise, it may be a sign that the pillow is worn out and needs to be replaced. As a good rule of thumb, you'd want to look for masks that are quieter than 22 decibels. A good example of a quiet nasal pillow mask is the AirFit P10, which checks in at only 21 decibels and is quieter than almost any machine.
For some people, the exhaled air from their nasal pillow mask will exit the mask at an awkward angle and may blow in your eyes. Usually, by tweaking how the mask fits in your nostrils, you can direct the air out and away from your face. If you try this step and find the air is still blowing in your eyes, you can opt to try a sleeping eye mask like the 40 Blinks or the Gravity Weighted Sleep Mask. These helpful masks cover your eyes and shield them from any irritations from your mask.
Cleaning your nasal pillow mask regularly is important to maintain the integrity of your equipment. The pillows come in contact with your nose for hours at a time, and in the process, pick up lots of germs. If you're sick, you need to be extremely careful as the germs on your nasal pillows can mutate and cause a reinfection. Here Are Some Steps to Follow to Keep Your Nasal Pillow Mask Clean and Working in Top Shape:
Over time, sweat, creams, makeup, aftershave, and other substances can break down the silicone of the pillows, and you'll have to replace them. Here are the suggested cleaning and replacement schedules for your nasal pillow mask:
Cleaning your CPAP mask every day reduces the chances of mask leaks and infections.
Everyone has essential things they need in a mask. We've collected a short list of nasal pillow masks that satisfy some of the most common lifestyle needs. Is yours on the list? Read on to find out!
The AirFit P10 Nasal Pillow Mask is lightweight and extremely quiet, checking in at around 21 decibels. This means it makes less noise than rustling leaves or two people whispering.
Related Reading: AirFit P10 Review
Similar Masks: Brevida Nasal Pillow Mask Review
The DreamWear Gel Nasal Pillow Mask is engineered with a wide-open field of vision that you'll love, giving you the freedom to send a text to a loved one or read a book—all while wearing your CPAP mask. The open view is made possible by a top-of-head hose connection, which keeps your CPAP tube away from your nose and also enables 360-degrees of movement. It's a win-win for any bookworm, smartphone user, or newshound.
Related Reading: DreamWear Mask Review
Similar Masks: ResMed AirFit P30i Review
The Swift FX is on many of our "best of" lists for a good reason. We call it the easiest mask to adjust because it uses a buckle strap on the top of your head and features a low-profile backstrap—the only points you’ll need to adjust. Complicated adjustments in the middle of the night when you're half asleep are certainly not fun, which is one reason why the easy adjustments on the Swift FX have made this mask stand the test of time.
Related Reading: Swift FX Nasal Pillow Review
For an in-depth review of popular nasal pillow masks, read the Best Nasal Pillow CPAP Mask 2021 article.