I’ve been sleeping with a CPAP device for several years and during the entire time I’ve always used a full-face mask. It’s worked alright but I still have several bad nights every now and then along with several moderate sleep nights. I know what it’s like to have great sleep so I’ve been aware for a while that perhaps it was time to try something new.
Several months ago my wife got her first CPAP machine and mask. She’s been using a ResMed Quattro FX Full-Face mask and over a few months I noticed her sleep stats were very good. In fact, they were consistently very good. However, during the same time I was struggling with my ResMed Mirage Quattro. It was not consistent. Sometimes I managed to have very good sleep a few nights in a row and then another night I might experience high leaks and sleep so bad I didn’t have the energy to do anything more than watch TV.
I decided to go ahead and get a Quattro FX and it turned out to be a very good decision for me. When I bought the mask I was sized for a medium, instead of a large as I have for previous masks. The first few nights were a bit of a hit and miss but now my sleep is fairly consistent. I’m even getting a combined AHI below three and four on a regular basis.
Overall, the mask is more comfortable than the Mirage Quattro, though this is entirely dependent on one’s facial characteristics and ears. Yes, ears. If the base of my ears were a quarter of an inch higher I probably couldn’t use the mask. It fits fine when I put it on at night but sometimes in the morning I’ll realize that it slid down slightly and rubbed against my ears.
I’m still using Lansinoh with the new mask, which still helps with the mask seal.
This mask is a vast improvement. I’ve slept so well that I’m no longer reviewing every stat and trying to find various tweaks to help me sleep better. I still check my stats each morning but I don’t bother to log them in a spreadsheet every day.
Updated 06/20/2012: From the beginning I’ve been replacing the mask seal and headgear very frequently. Sometimes I had to change them almost once a month (which adds up to about $85 for both replacements). No more. I’m going to wear out the mask seals as long as I possibly can. The headgear may be a bigger problem but I’m going to stretch it to the max.
Updated 07/18/2013: I stopped using a full-face mask and switched to an Aloha Nasal Pillow. It required some adjustment but it is much more effective, leaks have become rare problems, and the replacement parts are considerably less expensive.
Recently, I decided it was time to replace the headgear and mask seal. Typically I would need to replace the seal every three months and the headgear about every six months.
My experience with replacing the gear this time was a little bit different. Instead of improving my stats they actually decreased a bit. It seems that I was actually doing well with the older seal and headgear when combined with the Lansinoh. The headgear probably isn’t as much of a factor – I suspect the biggest difference is caused by using a new seal.
A new seal is much firmer than an older one. The longer a seal has been used the softer it becomes. Without Lansinoh (or a similar oil) an older mask seal would tend to leak more. However, the firmness of the new seal actually seems to create a less efficient seal. This isn’t what I expected and though it’s an inconvenience now I’ve learned something valuable – I can probably use an older seal with the oil indefinitely.
Is it less expensive to use Lansinoh with an older mask? Yes, if it works for you. A new seal for my mask costs about $55. If I use one tube of Lansinoh each month then it will cost me about $12 per month. In addition, using the Lansinoh seems to extend the usable life of the seal. I’m not sure how long a seal can be used with Lansinoh but I suspect it can easily last a year.
How effective this trick is will vary from person to person. If you’re interested in trying this then I suggest that you just buy one tube before stocking up. I also don’t recommend trying this for the first time with a new mask seal. The Lansinoh probably can’t be cleaned from the seal completely so start with an older mask seal.
Updated 06/20/2012: I haven’t figured out the perfect amount of Lansinoh to use each night but I have made progress on cleaning the oil off older mask seals. The oil really sticks and can even stain so avoid getting it on any clothing that you plan to wear in public again. I’ve previously tried dropping older mask seals into boiling water for a few minutes. It did get some of the oil off the masks but it also coated the pot that I used, which required a lot of scrubbing to clean out.
This weekend I tried a different approach. I gathered up a couple of masks (the same ones I had tried to clean with hot water) and dumped them into a mix of bleach and hot water in a plastic bowl and let them sit for a while. That seemed to do a good job of removing the oil from the masks and also breaking it down so the container wasn’t coated with residue. I’ve only done this once so I don’t know if it will be a good idea in the long term but the masks that I had used were old ones that I would have thrown away anyway. In this case, I’ll probably try reusing them. So far, the bleach didn’t seem to harm the mask seals.
Since my obstructive sleep apnea is severe I must take my CPAP with me any time that I travel. Otherwise, I’ll feel terrible the next morning. Unfortunately, the device came with a soft case that doesn’t provide the device, and more importantly the mask and hose, any protection from being damaged.
This week I decided to purchase a hard shell case that would offer more protection. I didn’t want to have to keep asking others to be careful about putting their luggage on top of the CPAP case. It wouldn’t take much to break the mask or hose (though the device itself would probably fine).
A little over a week ago I decided to look at getting a different type of mask. I knew there was room for improvement, especially after having some bad nights. I also wanted to have at least one spare mask around. Trying to get through even one night without it would be very difficult.
A couple of weeks ago I started tracking how I felt after a night of sleep using a calendar. I’ve since graduated to maintaining an Excel spreadsheet that logs this information using a scale of zero to five (zero = severe fatigue, five = well rested). A couple of days ago I started checking the morning’s effectiveness stats and recording that in the same spreadsheet.
Updated 09/15/2011: I’ve reversed my opinion of the liners since I wrote this post. I began to have less effective rest after a few days. Last night I removed the liner and ended up sleeping well despite only having about five hours of rest. It’s still possible it was a fluke but in the end I’m not sure these really add much. I can’t say with certainty whether or not they improve or inhibit rest but for the cost and uncertainty I’m ruling that they just don’t make much of a difference for me. I still have 28 more liners left so I may try them again. If my opinion changes I will update this note.
Updated 10/25/2011: I’ve tried them a few more times since my last update and I still haven’t seen that they help me. However, my wife tried one (that wasn’t even fitted for her mask) one night and thought that it made a big difference with her medium ResMed Quattro FX mask). I’m going a different route. I’ve ordered a Pad-a-Cheek Mask Liner. I’ll add a new post after it arrives and I’ve had a chance to use it a few nights.
After recent spell of a few nights of bad sleep I started looking into anything that might help prevent mask leaks. Fortunately, I managed to make a few changes that let me sleep well without any new CPAP equipment. Yet, I had already ordered some mask liners after reading various product reviews and a few forum posts.
Last week I purchased a set of RemZzzs Padd Full Face CPAP Mask Liners from CPAP.com for $24.95 (before shipping). Note that you can purchase these from other suppliers but it’s important to ensure that they’ll fit the mask and mask size that you use. CPAP.com has a chart on the mask liner page that will match up different masks with the appropriate liner sizes. In my case, since I use a Resmed Quattro Full Face Mask (Large) the chart listed the “Large A” mask liners as my preferred size.