Circadiance Blog

Thoughts from our CEO: Skin Friendly CPAP Masks

Posted by Circadiance on Jun 6, 2019 12:00:00 PM

June 6, 2019
Pittsburgh, PA

By: David Groll, Founder and CEO of Circadiance


Wearing a layer of plastic against your face is not friendly to your skin. Plastic CPAP Masks are hard, heavy and trap moisture between the mask and the skin. The problems are caused by the materials used. All plastic masks share these problems, whether they are nasal masks, full face masks or nasal prongs.

I have been in the CPAP business for over 30 years, working as an engineer at Respironics in the mid-80s to mid-90s. So I have seen the evolution of face masks for the treatment of sleep apnea first hand. Face masks were developed in WWII when airplanes were first able to reach an altitude where the pilots required supplemental oxygen. These masks were hard triangular shells with a rubber bladder that was clamped onto the pilots face to form a seal. The pilots were healthy young men, who were awake when they wore them. In the 50s, this same design was applied to medical masks for oxygen and anesthesia applications. And although the users were often older and in compromised health, comfort was still not an issue. When Respironics introduced the first commercial CPAP system in the 80s, we adapted an anesthesia mask and incorporated some features of firefighter masks to make the first CPAP masks. It made sense at the time since we were pioneering a new therapy.

Since that time, the industry has copied and refined the same basic design many times. Most CPAP masks are comprised of a rigid frame and an elastomeric cushion (either silicone rubber or gel). When the cushion and the user’s skin are squeezed together, they form a seal that holds the air pressure from the CPAP machine, like a gasket. There are two problems with this approach. The first is that the force required to form the seal overcomes the perfusion pressure in the tissue bed where the mask contacts the skin, which cuts off blood flow. Think of it like wrapping a rubber band around your finger. After a while, lack of blood flow becomes very uncomfortable. The second problem is that the plastic mask is a moisture barrier, trapping any moisture from the skin at the surface. This moisture can cause an inflammatory response from the skin that leads to red marks and soreness.

Because of these issues with all plastic CPAP masks, about half of the people prescribed for CPAP therapy discontinue their therapy, with mask discomfort being the number one reason.

I knew there had to be a better answer. Around 2003, I started thinking about how to develop a better CPAP mask. I knew that most of the problems related to CPAP masks are due to their use of plastic. I thought “nobody sleeps in plastic pajamas or on plastic bed sheets, why would you make a CPAP Mask from plastic?”. I went back to “first principles” and thought about how you would design a better CPAP mask if you had never seen one before. The result was the world’s first all cloth CPAP Mask. By 2007, the first generation SleepWeaver mask was launched to the market. And since that time, the SleepWeaver Skin FriendlyTM  CPAP masks have become a standard of care for those who can’t tolerate hard plastic masks.

SleepWeaver Skin Friendly Masks use the air pressure inside the mask to form a seal with the user’s face, unlike hard plastic masks which use the tension in the headgear to squeeze the mask onto the user’s face. SleepWeaver masks work like a tubeless tire to conform to the user’s facial features. So there are no pressure points. The cloth material is similar to the cloth used in a windbreaker jacket, so it is air impermeable and holds air like a balloon. But the material is “moisture vapor breathable” allowing any moisture from the user’s skin to wick through the cloth and evaporate into the airflow from the CPAP machine which is quietly exhausted through the exhalation holes. The unique design based on cloth material makes SleepWeaver Masks Skin Friendly.

Today, Circadiance makes a line of SleepWeaver masks all of which derive from the same first principles that was used to make the first SleepWeaver. These include:

  • SleepWeaver Advance Nasal Masks
  • SleepWeaver Advance Pediatric Nasal Masks
  • SleepWeaver Elan Nasal Masks
  • SleepWeaver 3D Nasal Masks
  • SleepWeaver Anew Full Face Masks

To learn more about the SleepWeaver line of Skin Friendly Masks, go to our web site.

Topics: Circadiance News, SleepWeaver