Home Philips CPAP Choosing a CPAP Machine

Choosing a CPAP Machine

CPAP therapy is one of the most common and effective treatments for obstructive sleep apnea. Knowing how to choose a CPAP machine and mask and talking with your doctor about minimizing side effects can significantly improve treatment outcomes.

Last Modified: October 26, 2023
Fact Checked
Medically Reviewed

Board-certified physicians medically review Drugwatch content to ensure its accuracy and quality.

Drugwatch partners with Physicians’ Review Network Inc. to enlist specialists. PRN is a nationally recognized leader in providing independent medical reviews.

Reviewer specialties include internal medicine, gastroenterology, oncology, orthopedic surgery and psychiatry.

Why Trust DrugWatch?

Drugwatch.com has been empowering patients for more than a decade

Drugwatch.com has provided reliable, trusted information about medications, medical devices and general health since 2008. We’ve also connected thousands of people injured by drugs and medical devices with top-ranked national law firms to take action against negligent corporations.

Our team includes experienced medical writers, award-winning journalists, researchers and certified medical and legal experts. Drugwatch.com is HONCode (Health On the Net Foundation) certified. This means the high-quality information we provide comes from credible sources, such as peer-reviewed medical journals and expert interviews.

The information on Drugwatch.com has been medically and legally reviewed by more than 30 expert contributors, including doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, patient advocates and other health care professionals. Our writers are members of professional associations, including American Medical Writers Association, American Bar Association, The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates and International Society for Medical Publication Professionals.

About Drugwatch.com

  • Assisting patients and their families since 2008.
  • Helped more than 12,000 people find legal help.
  • A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
  • 5-star reviewed medical and legal information site.
Learn More About Us


"Drugwatch opened my eyes to the realities of big pharmacy. Having a family member with major depression and anxiety, I was looking for information on her medications. I found information that was very helpful, that her psychiatrist never told her."
Marianne Zahren Patient’s Family Member
  • Google Business Rating
  • BBB A+ Rating Logo

Why Choosing the Right CPAP for You Matters

Choosing the right continuous positive airway pressure machine reduces symptoms and makes it more likely you will continue using the machine to treat sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous medical condition that causes a decrease in airway flow and may also cause an individual to stop and start breathing many times while sleeping. A CPAP machine uses positive pressure to deliver steady air flow and pressure to help users breathe. Some of the features of the CPAP machine include a fitted mask and head straps connected to a cylinder to deliver the positive pressurized flow.

Recent research indicates that mask-related side effects have a significant impact on a user’s ability to sleep comfortably and adhere to the treatment. Dealing with mask discomfort is a critical factor when it comes to improving a patient’s CPAP experience and willingness to stick with the therapy.

A mask that has the right fit, is comfortable to wear and has the right features can minimize unpleasant side effects, such as skin irritation and pressure sores. It also helps prevent leaks that can cause a stuffy nose and dry mouth.

It’s important that you talk to your doctor about choosing a CPAP machine and mask that will work for you. But while choosing the right machine and mask can minimize some side effects, other issues can occur resulting in more serious health concerns. For example, the health risks from foam in Philips CPAP masks led the manufacturer to recall its CPAP machines in 2021. This means people receiving treatment for sleep apnea need to look for Philips CPAP alternatives.

Lawsuit Information
Respiratory problems and multiple types of cancer are among the side effects named in Philips CPAP lawsuits.
View Lawsuits

Types of CPAP Machines

A CPAP machine is the most common type of positive airway pressure device. Other types of PAP devices include automatic positive airway pressure and bi-level positive airway pressure machines. Many people incorrectly use the word “CPAP” to describe different kinds of PAP machines.

Most CPAP machines allow users to control humidity, ramp and pressure levels. These features can incrementally increase the rate of pressurized air, automatically adjust for minor pressure variations and release moisture to the airflow, limiting side effects.

  • Standard CPAP Machines: Deliver a constant and fixed level of air pressure to the lungs through a nasal or face mask. This is the standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Travel or Portable CPAP Machines: Perform the same basic function as regular CPAP machines. They’re also smaller and give users the option of powering the device using batteries when a plug-in electricity supply is not available.

All CPAP machines are Class II medical devices and require a prescription from a doctor. People seeking treatment should talk to a medical professional about their symptoms and get a diagnosis. A sleep study is normally prescribed by the provider. The results are then reviewed by a sleep disorder specialist and/or a neurologist or pulmonologist to determine which form of sleep apnea the patient has. After discussing the type of sleep apnea and options to determine the best type of therapy, users will receive a prescription for CPAP therapy equipment and settings. The settings are usually programmed into the CPAP machine by a sleep specialist or respiratory therapist, and a proper mask fit is performed.

Standard vs. Travel CPAP Machines

A travel-sized CPAP machine is smaller and lighter than standard CPAP devices, making it portable and easy to pack. Remember to check that it is Federal Aviation Administration-compliant if you plan to use one on an airplane.

Standard CPAPTravel CPAP
PortabilityBest kept bedside, in one placeEasy to pack and transport
SizeBulkier and heavierSmaller and lighter
Cost$500 to $1,000Typically more expensive than standard models with equivalent features
  • Added features, such as a pressure ramp, depending on model and price
  • Humidifier
  • Memory card
  • Automatic altitude adjustment for use on a plane
  • Can serve as a backup unit
  • Many have a lithium-ion recharchable battery
  • May have fewer features
  • Quieter
InsuranceCovered by most insurance policies Not covered by most insurance policies
PowerMust plug into a power outletUses either batteries or a power outlet

When buying a travel-sized or standard CPAP machine, talk to your doctor about possible CPAP machine side effects. An ongoing U.S. Food and Drug Administration recall and several CPAP lawsuits are underway against manufacturers who may have knowingly sold machines that could malfunction and pose risks to users’ health.

Types of CPAP Masks

There are multiple types of CPAP masks, including full face, oral, nasal and nasal pillow masks. For CPAP treatment to work, users must wear a mask that feels comfortable and fits properly. Mask fit can make a big difference in someone’s overall CPAP experience and is critical to ensure treatment is effective.

The four types of CPAP masks have different fits:
  • Full Face Masks: Also called oronasal masks, these cover the nose and mouth
  • Nasal Masks: Cover the nose and leave the mouth unobstructed
  • Nasal Pillow Masks: Seal the nostrils with “pillows” to deliver air pressure through the nostrils
  • Oral or Hybrid Masks: Deliver air pressure through the mouth with pillows to create a seal around the base of the nostrils

People sleep differently and have different head shapes. Working with your doctor to get the right mask and fit may mean trying on several different types before finding one that works for you.

It’s important to remember that buying a new mask also requires a prescription from your doctor. Replacement parts such as frames, headgear and cushions do not.

Pros and Cons of Full Face Masks

Full face or oronasal masks are common. However, research suggests they may not be the best option for many users.

Pros of Full Face Masks
  • Good for users who suffer from nasal obstruction or congestion
  • Good for users who sleep on their backs
  • Works well for users who breathe through their mouth
Cons of Full Face Masks
  • Require higher CPAP therapeutic pressure
  • Can lead to less restful sleep and higher wake times
  • Can be harder to fit correctly
  • Discomfort may cause users to discontinue treatment
  • Greater risk of pressure sores

Doctors don’t recommend full face or oronasal masks as the first choice for all sleep apnea patients. They’re predominantly recommended for patients who are “mouth breathers” or sleep on their backs.

Pros and Cons of Hybrid and Oral Masks

Oral or hybrid masks generate air pressure through the mouth and have “pillows” that keep the nostrils sealed. They’re typically more comfortable than a full face mask because they cover a smaller part of the user’s face.

Pros of Hybrid and Oral Masks
  • Good choice for active sleepers who move around while sleeping
  • Less bulky than full face masks
  • Work well for users who breathe through their mouth
Cons of Hybrid and Oral Masks
  • Increased risk of pressure ulcers
  • May require higher CPAP therapeutic pressure

Research shows that patients generally find oral and hybrid masks comfortable. As a result, these patients are more likely to continue treatment. Though an oral or hybrid mask covers a smaller surface area than a full face mask, side effects are more common than with the nasal mask options.

Pros and Cons of Nasal Masks

Nasal masks cover the area from the bridge of the nose to the upper lip. They’re the most popular CPAP mask option.

Pros of Nasal Masks
  • Available in multiple options to accommodate different facial types
  • Don’t obstruct the user’s mouth
  • Good for people who breathe through their nose
  • Work well for active sleepers who move around while sleeping
Cons of Nasal Masks
  • Not a good choice for users who breathe through their mouth
  • Not a good choice for users who suffer from nasal congestion or obstruction
  • Not effective for users who require higher CPAP therapeutic pressure

Even though the nasal mask can exert pressure on the face, studies demonstrate that it causes less soreness and fewer side effects than other options. It’s also a more comfortable alternative for most users.

Pros and Cons of Nasal Pillow Masks

Nasal pillow masks create a seal around the user’s nostrils. The headgear includes minimally invasive inserts that fit into each nostril.

Pros of Nasal Pillow Masks
  • Good for people with facial hair
  • Good for people who breathe through their nose
  • Good for people who toss and turn while sleeping
  • Reduce the risks of sores and discomfort on the face
  • Small size works well for claustrophobic users
Cons of Nasal Pillow Masks
  • Not a good choice for users who breathe through their mouth
  • Not a good choice for users who suffer from nasal congestion or obstruction
  • Not effective for users who require a higher CPAP therapeutic pressure
  • Should be replaced every 14 days, where a full face mask can be replaced monthly

Nasal pillow masks are a good mask choice for many people because they offer a concise fit. They are also a solution for people who suffer from claustrophobia.

Working with your doctor to find the right mask fit is a critical part of making sure your CPAP treatment for sleep apnea is effective. Spending the time to find and test the most comfortable and suitable mask options is key to treating this common condition with long-term health consequences. It can improve your health and help you get a better night’s rest.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.