Typcial CPAP nasal pillows

CPAP nasal pillowCredit: Allen-DouglasCredit: Allen-Douglas

A nasal pillow is a term used by pulmonary doctors to describe type of CPAP mask that only touches the nasal openings.  The back pressure from a CPAP machine is directly placed at the nasal openings, providing the needed sleep benefits.  Some people prefer the nasal pillows over a CPAP mask for various reasons. 


Nasal pillows vs CPAP mask

  • The nasal pillows do not touch the face as much as a full or mini CPAP mask.
  • People who are claustrophobic typically prefer the nasal pillows over a mask.
  • Nasal pillows do not touch the sinus areas of the face, therefore, people who have more sensitive sinuses may like the nasal pillows better.
  • A CPAP mask helps to equalize the pressure from the machine.  Since the pressure is on the outside and inside of the nose it does not seem as strong with a mask.  The nasal pillows may require an adjustment to those who previously used a mask for this reason.
  • Nasal pillows may be more comfortable for side sleepers.


nasal pillowsCredit: Allen-DouglasCredit: Allen-Douglas

There are different types of nasal pillows with different headgear to support the pillows.  Almost all nasal pillows are made out of neoprene rubber to help those with latex allergies.  The neoprene  rubber is very soft and comfortable.  It is soft enough to allow a flexibility, but stiff enough not to pinch or blow up like a balloon when the CPAP machine is running. 

Nasal pillows either have the air flow inlet on the side or bottom.  The side inlet type is very comfortable, with the least amount of contact with the face.  This design, however, only allows sleeping on one side.  For side sleepers who turn over during their sleep, is not typically the best choice.  For side sleepers who prefer to sleep on one side, this style of inlet is acceptable.  The bottom inlet works very well for people who have problems with their mask coming off during the night and with side sleepers who toss and turn.  Many of the head-gear designs for the center inlet have more contact with the face.

Nasal pillow sets typically have 2-3 different size end pieces that contact the nose.  These end pieces all usually come with the nasal pillow set.  The best fit for the pillows are snug, allowing full air flow, but not too tight or loose.  Loose fitting nose pieces allow too much air flow to leak.  Tight fitting nose pillows restrict flow and increase back pressure.