Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, is commonly used to treat obstructive sleep apnea. With this condition, people stop breathing during sleep for a few seconds at a time due to obstructions in their airways. Those with sleep apnea can treat it by using a CPAP machine as they sleep; the machine is connected to a CPAP mask that’s placed over your nose, or both your mouth and nose, to deliver pressurized air. It works to prevent your airways from collapsing and becoming obstructed, thereby also improving sleep apnea. It’s crucial to commit to your CPAP therapy, because untreated sleep apnea doesn’t just make you feel tired during the day; it also increases your risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. But if you’re claustrophobic, using a CPAP machine can be challenging. You may struggle with the idea of having to sleep with a mask over your face, affecting your adherence with this effective treatment. Don’t give up too soon, though! Some types of CPAP masks may work better for people with claustrophobia. Overcoming Claustrophobia With CPAP You can take steps to get used to your CPAP mask and help to diminish the feeling of claustrophobia. Start by holding your mask over your nose or mouth as directed, without turning the machine on or using the straps. Initially, this can be for a short period of time, just 10 seconds or so. Gradually increase the amount of time you hold the mask in place. Once you feel comfortable with this, try putting the mask on using the straps for brief periods while you are awake. It may help to watch TV or do something else to distract you during this time. As wearing the mask begins to feel easier, try wearing it with the CPAP machine running. You should find once you become more accustomed to the feeling of your mask and the delivery of pressurized air, you’ll be able to use your CPAP consistently while you sleep. If you’re still struggling, however, let your doctor know. He or she may suggest trying a different type of CPAP mask or one by another manufacturer. The benefits of using your CPAP regularly to treat your obstructive sleep apnea are clear, so it’s worth the extra time and effort to find a manageable solution for you. Choosing a CPAP Mask There are three main types of CPAP masks, though subtle differences can still occur based on the manufacturer: Nasal pillow mask: This lightweight mask is often preferred by those who have claustrophobia because it sits just under your nostrils with minimal material touching your face. The mask delivers airflow directly into your nostrils, so your mouth remains uncovered. Nasal pillows keep your visual field relatively open and allow for more movement during sleep. They’re best used for individuals who only require low to moderate amounts of pressure and who are not mouth-breathers. Nasal CPAP mask: This type of mask covers from the bridge of your nose to just above your lip. As with nasal pillows, it may produce less of a claustrophobic sensation since it doesn’t cover your mouth. It comes in a variety of styles, making it easier to find a proper fit for your face. It can deliver CPAP at higher pressures than with nasal pillows. If you breathe from your mouth, you may need to use this mask with a chin strap to keep your mouth closed. Full-face CPAP mask: Forming a seal over your mouth and nose, this type of CPAP mask can be a little more difficult for those with claustrophobia to get used to. However, it works well for individuals who primarily breathe through their mouths or require higher pressures of CPAP. Also, newer versions are being developed that are lighter and less cumbersome, making them more tolerable for claustrophobic patients than in the past. Keep in mind there isn’t just one optimal CPAP mask for people with claustrophobia. The key is finding which mask works best for you.