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Common Causes of CPAP Air Leaks — and How to Fix Them

Common Causes of CPAP Air Leaks — and How to Fix Them

While a CPAP machine can go a long way in mitigating the effects of obstructive sleep apnea, there is one issue that can make them much less effective: air leaks. In fact, a recent study found that many Automatic CPAP machines are unable to respond correctly to sleep apnea events when an air leak is present.

The end result: when you have an air leak, your CPAP machine might not be able to do you much good at all.

The majority of CPAP air leaks are directly linked to issues regarding your mask. While mask-related problems are somewhat common, they are also relatively easy to identify and fix. Here are some common issues you should watch out for.

You Need to Adjust Your Headgear

man putting on CPAP mask

Adjusting the straps on your headgear is one of the most important steps of putting on your CPAP mask at night. Ideally, your mask should fit snugly but not too tightly against your face. 

When the mask is too tight, the mask cushions may not be able to inflate properly. This keeps them from forming a good air seal, while also pressing uncomfortably against your skin. Alternatively, when the mask is too loose, there will likely be large gaps that allow large quantities of air to escape.

To find that “just right” balance, it’s best to adjust your mask headgear when you are lying down. This way, you can get a comfortable fit based on how you will be wearing the mask while you are sleeping.

You Have the Wrong Type of Mask For Your Sleep Style

How you sleep — whether that’s on your back, side, or stomach — can have a big influence on what type of mask is best for you. For example, if you sleep on your stomach, the way your face presses against a pillow could cause a full face mask (and possibly even a nasal mask) to come loose. Such sleepers are often served best by smaller nasal pillows. Similarly, people who roll around a lot in their sleep are usually going to be better off with a nasal mask or nasal pillows.

On the other hand, if you frequently breathe through your mouth at night, you are going to be best served by a full face mask that covers both your mouth and nose. If you wore a nasal mask, air from your CPAP machine could escape out your mouth, rather than getting to your airways.

Consulting with a sleep specialist can help you determine which type of mask will be the best option for your sleep style. It’s okay to look into different types of masks if your current mask seems uncomfortable or prone to leaking.

The Mask, Frame, or Cushion is the Wrong Size

In addition to the type of mask you use, you should also consider your sizing. Getting the wrong size of mask, frame, or cushion is actually a relatively common problem because mask sizing can vary between different manufacturers. Needless to say, if you order the wrong size, your mask is going to be much more likely to leak!

Fortunately, most manufacturers also provide sizing guides to help you understand the right size for you based on your face measurements. You could also have a professional fitting done with your sleep specialist to confirm that you get the right size for your needs.

Your Mask or Tubing is Old or Dirty

man putting CPAP mask in cleaning device

CPAP manufacturers set their cleaning guidelines for a reason — if you let your mask get dirty, it’s going to break down and no longer work properly. When your mask cushions rest against your face, they are exposed to dirt and oil from your skin. This buildup can keep the mask from forming a proper seal. Over time, this buildup can even cause the silicone to break down or deteriorate, worsening air leaks.

Because of this, it is recommended that you use a sanitary CPAP wipe to clean the cushions each day. You should also wash the hard plastic portion of your mask daily to prevent potential bacterial buildup. Using a mask liner can also help keep the mask cushions and other parts from getting dirty without interfering with the air seal.

Of course, no matter how well you care for your CPAP mask and its accessories, it is going to break down over time. As you wear your headgear, the elastic will stretch and get worn out. The mask cushion may develop small tears and wear down. The tubing connecting your mask to your CPAP machine could also develop cracks that allow air to escape.

Because of this, you should follow all manufacturer replacement guidelines. Generally speaking, CPAP mask cushions should be replaced after two to four weeks. The mask frame and tubing should be replaced after three months, and the headgear should be replaced after six months. Following these guidelines will keep everything working like it should.

Get Your Replacement Equipment From No Insurance Medical Supplies!

Your CPAP masks won’t last forever — and following manufacturer recommendations for replacing this equipment will go a long way in preventing air leaks. Fortunately, replacing masks, tubing, and other equipment can become much more affordable when you order from No Insurance Medical Supplies.

We offer a wide range of nasal masks, full face masks, and more, with many of these products available at discounted prices. You can also enjoy free shipping on all orders $99 and up. With more affordable CPAP masks, you don’t have to worry about using an old, leaky mask any longer than you have to.


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