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Men with Beards! Choose the Best CPAP Mask

Men with Beards! Choose the Best CPAP Mask

Beards have been making a comeback. A "growing" number of men are now sporting facial hair as a sign of virility, maturity and plain style. While there are indeed a number of attractive features associated with facial hair, there can also be a handful of issues to address by those who have already been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea. 

Can a typical CPAP mask properly function if you’ve got a beard? Are there certain masks to consider? These are logical questions and they deserve a bit more attention so that you can make an informed choice. 

What is the Main Issue with Beards and Sleep Apnoea?

Anyone who has followed the recent news involving the COVID-19 outbreak may have encountered articles discussing the efficacy of typical face masks in relation to beards. In other words, some scientists were concerned that beards prevent masks from fitting properly and thus, air leakage can occur around their edges.

It only stands to reason that this is just as much of a concern when examining a typical mask used to increase the pressure in your airways. After all, a poor seal will compromise the amount of air that is delivered during the overnight hours. 

This could cause your symptoms of sleep apnoea to return. So, the main question therefore involves is there are any options. After all, the notion of shaving a beard that has taken months or even years to grow is not entirely palatable. The good news is that a host of unique solutions are available. 

A Quick Look at the Variety of Masks to Consider

There are three different mask varieties which can be selected based off of the type of beard as well as your personal preferences:

  • A nasal "pillow"
  • Standard nasal masks
  • Full face masks

Nasal pillows are often preferred by those who have very robust and thick beards. The principle behind nasal pillows is quite simple. This apparatus will not need to come into contact with your upper chin or lip. Therefore, beards can often be entirely avoided. It instead rests immediately below your nostrils. Pressurised air is delivered by this method as opposed to entering through your mouth. This is a great solution if you also have a very profound moustache. 

One of the issues involving nasal pillows is that some individuals can find them slightly uncomfortable. This is obviously not conducive to a sound night of sleep. In such situations, a standard nasal mask could be an excellent alternative. The main benefit here is that nasal masks will remain firmly in place during the overnight hours thanks to a series of adjustable straps. 

Although the two choices above provide viable results, they are mainly designed for those who regularly breathe through their nose. This can obviously be problematic for mouth breathers. If you happen to fall into this category, it is normally best to opt for a full-face mask.

This type of mask will adequately cover your nose and mouth; enabling you to receive the proper amount of pressurised air while sleeping. However, it is engineered in such a way as to extend further beneath the chin so that it will avoid touching beards (this may also depend upon the length of the hair). Masks offering gel or memory foam peripheries can represent great options, as these have the ability to conform to the natural contours of your face. 

Additional Suggestions and Tips

If this is your first time utilising a CPAP mask, it is normally better to start with a smaller size and slowly adjust its dimensions until you feel that it fits snugly without feeling uncomfortable. This is the best way to ensure that you are receiving the proper amount of air.

The other main takeaway point is to avoid loosening the mask if it becomes bothersome (a common occurrence amongst men who have beards). Once again, this will cause the seal to become compromised and ultimately, this can exacerbate the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea. 

There are likewise a number of seals and moisturisers which can provide you with additional levels of comfort if you are still having problems adjusting to the presence of a CPAP mask. 

So, we can see that men with beards can still enjoy all of the advantages that modern sleep apnoea treatments have to offer. As always, be sure to discuss your options with a doctor or sleep specialist. 

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Author: Helen Clarkson

About author: Helen Clarkson is a Sleep Specialist at Baywater Healthcare. Ms. Clarkson has worked with Baywater since 2008, working closely with patients in delivering sleep/bi-level services including sleep and respiratory, both in the home and clinic setting. This includes therapy initiation and troubleshooting support. Ms. Clarkson is responsible for delivering the Baywater Healthcare patient adherence management programme to ensure continuing patient therapy compliance. works in conjunction with NHS clinicians and procurement to deliver excellence in home and clinic-based services. She provides training on all aspects of sleep including devices and interfaces. Previously, Ms. Clarkson served as Respiratory Physiologist at Pontefract General Infirmary. Her position was Senior MTO for lung function/sleep department, and she was responsible for performing simple and complex sleep studies, sleep study analysis, CPAP initiation, therapy adherence and troubleshooting/service clinics, spirometry, lung volumes and transfer factor, reversibility, CPET, hyperventilation testing, EIA testing, skin prick testing, 6 min walk tests. She has also held roles as Respiratory Physiologist and Respiratory Technician, working closely with patients with respiratory disorders -- including ex-miners. Ms. Clarkson has a BSc (Honors) in Applied biology from University of Staffordshire. She also studied Developments in Sleep Medicine (advanced course) at St. Thomas’ Hospital, and took the Edinburgh Sleep Medicine course. She completed the BSS: Advanced sleep course and the ARTP NIV Course.

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