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What is CPAP Headgear?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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CPAP headgear is headgear which is designed for use with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. CPAP machines are primarily used by people with sleep apnea who use the CPAP machine to ensure that their airways remain open throughout the night so that they do not experience periods of apnea. These devices are also used in some hospitals and clinics in lieu of other types of machines used to ensure that patients are receiving enough oxygen.

CPAP headgear includes a nose pillow, nose interface, or breathing mask, along with straps which are used to attach it, and tubes utilized to connect the equipment to the CPAP machine. There are many different designs and styles available to meet patient needs, available from medical suppliers, companies which specialize in CPAP headgear, and through some medical clinics. Finding the right headgear can be an important part of the process of finding an apnea treatment which works for a patient.

Many people find that CPAP headgear is uncomfortable or distracting to get to sleep with at first. Since people are not in the habit of sleeping with masks strapped to their faces, the headgear can be uncomfortable and it may make it hard to sleep. Headgear which is not properly fitted may also slide off or develop leaks, reducing the effectiveness of the CPAP machine, or people may find that they are reluctant to use the machine because the headgear is uncomfortable or not functional.

Typically, CPAP headgear includes a series of straps which are designed to hold a nose pillow or face mask in place, and these straps can be adjusted for fit. Broad straps are better, because they stabilize the CPAP gear more effectively, and they distribute pressure so that people are less likely to wake up with marks and blotches caused by pinching straps. Some straps are padded with gel and other materials to make them even more comfortable.

Selecting the right nose piece or mouth mask for CPAP headgear is important. It is a good idea to make sure that it is a snug fit, and that it feels comfortable and reasonably natural to wear. A doctor may have recommendations, but sometimes it's necessary to go to a medical supply store in person to try on an array of models and find one which works; once a patient finds a comfortable model, he or she can order extras to have a supply in case of loss or damage.

Because many companies make CPAP machines and accessories, patients should not give up if their early efforts don't yield equipment which feels comfortable to wear. They should also try to give CPAP headgear a few nights before trying another brand, to allow themselves to get used to wearing headgear before assuming that the brand they are using will not work.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Read more
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