When people refer to a sleep apnea mask they are talking about Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) devices. The most commonly known of these is the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine.
Since sleep apnea is caused from a blockage in the airways (the tongue, soft palate, excess tissue etc), the flow of continuous air clears the blockages and allows the user to breathe normally during the night.
For more information about what sleep apnea is, check out sleeping apnea.
PAP devices basically consist of a motor with a fan connected to a tube, which is then connected to some type of breathing device such as a mask. While sleeping, a patient wears the mask, which is connected to the motor or machine with a hose. The machine pumps air into the airways of the patient through the hose - at relatively high pressures - in order to keep the throat clear of any blockages.
Each of the apnea masks come equipped with some type of headgear that keeps the mask or nasal pillow in place throughout the night. These straps have to be fitted perfectly since the patient will not feel comfortable if straps are too tight and if the straps are too loose, it will cause leakage.
Among the remedies for sleep apnea, the sleep apnea mask has proven to be the most effective in combating sleep apnea and snoring. Although there are no side effects like you would have when taking prescription drugs, there are a host of complaints that users have about sleeping with an apnea masks. These include:
In addition to the above list, some people also complain that they can't sleep with Positive Airway Pressure devices because of the sound the machine makes. It should be noted that in this area, PAP machines have come a long way. Many of the machines on the market today are literally whisper quiet. That being said, there are still people who can't get used to the sound of the machine and are therefore unable to sleep well throughout the night.
Since every person sleeps differently, you'll need to test out different PAP machines to see which one is a perfect fit for you. Some people swear by the full face masks, yet others complain they are uncomfortable and prefer the nasal pillows. The most important thing is to find the one that fits you best. Talk to your doctor and try on different sleep apnea masks to find the one that you're comfortable sharing your bed with. Check out other types of sleep apnea equipment.