Types of Sleep Devices and Cleaners

Whether you’re new to sleep apnea or have had a sleep device for years, knowing the types of sleep devices can lead to a better night’s sleep. On top of that, knowing your options for cleaning your sleep device can save you from getting any one of the respiratory diseases common among those who use sleep devices.

Next time you’re choosing a sleep device, mask, or cleaner, here’s what you need to know.

Types of Sleep Devices

Sleep devices used for airway pressure therapy have three distinct types of devices: sleep machines, BiPAP machines, and APAP machines.

Each of these has differences, benefits, pros, and cons. All of these machines use a gentle flow of pressurized, filtered air to keep your airway open at night as a way of helping you breathe while you sleep. The different acronyms indicate differences in how the air pressure keeps your airway open and helps you breathe. See which one is right for you.

What Is A Sleep Device?

With this type of machine, a level of air pressure your doctor will prescribe.

Once you have your prescribed air pressure, the machine will keep the pressure consistent and without any variation throughout the night. For sleep apnea, this is a favorite choice because of its ease of use and reliability. It allows you to breathe in with the help of the pressurized air and to breathe out against the same pressure setting, assuming you have a mask that fits over your nose and mouth together.

Types of Sleep Devices - a woman wearing a mask
You have to be able to sleep comfortably with your sleep mask, therefore finding the right mask is essential

Sleep mask devices are also an option to treat Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome or UARS. This is considered the first stage before obstructive sleep apnea. With UARS, you won’t have a complete blockage of your airway, but you will have a reduced air intake, often due to the crowding of loose tissue. In this case, you may not gasp yourself awake, but your breathing will be labored, and your oxygen levels will suffer.

What’s The Difference Between a Sleep Device and BiPAP?

BiPAP stands for Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure. In contrast to the sleep machine, a BiPAP uses two airway pressure levels, meaning you can use two different settings.

For example, you can have one setting for when you breathe in, called your inspiratory setting, or IPAP. Then another setting for when you exhale called your expiratory pressure setting, or EPAP.

These are an effective alternative to machines in the treatment of problems such as:

  • Central Sleep Apnea
  • COPD
  • Overlap Syndrome
  • Obesity Hypoventilation

It also helps deal with most health issues related to obstructive or restrictive components that affect your breathing during sleep.

The Right Machine Might Take Some Getting Used To

A BiPAP machine is great if you have difficulty breathing out against the continuous air pressure you would have with a sleep machine. If you cannot breathe out, carbon dioxide (CO2) can build up in your system and lead to serious health concerns, namely because it alters the gas levels in your blood.

This can eventually lead to poor sleep and organ damage.

What Is An APAP?

APAP machines, compared to the other two options, use automated pressure and are sometimes referred to as “automatic” or “autoset” machines.

Where the other two rely on settings to determine the air pressure the machine turns out, an APAP uses computer algorithms to figure out how much air pressure you need at every moment. This is a way to completely automate your treatment in a more responsive way to variables like your sleep positions and your breathing changes throughout the night.

For those with varying breathing patterns throughout their sleep cycle or those who do better with a more natural feeling, APAP machines are a great option.

The Benefits Of An Automatic Machine

Say you toss and turn during your sleep. An APAP machine will automatically respond to the differences in your breathing as opposed to a machine that will stay constant, no matter if you need the pressurized air in a specific position or not.

These are also a suitable option for those who want to start treatment immediately without the added steps required to find the appropriate air pressure setting for a or BiPAP.

The Different Types of Masks

As crucial as your type of machine is, so is the kind of mask you use. It’s also important to know the differences and benefits associated with each different option. The primary consideration you’ll have to make with each mask style is how good the seal is on your face, how comfortable it is to sleep in, and how much weight you wish to have on your face.

machines help those with sleep apnea to sleep soundly through the night

Typically, the larger the mask, the heavier it is. You should also consider the effect of your facial hair on the seal. Similarly, the different shapes and contours of your face can affect the seal of the mask. You may need to be prepared to try more than one option to find the right fit for you.

Full Face Masks

This type of mask covers both your nose and your mouth. Many people find this style of mask feels more comfortable and creates a better seal on their face. If you have facial hair, you may need to opt for this larger face mask to make a decent seal. However, if you tend to feel claustrophobic, this may not be the option for you.

Nasal Masks

These masks only fit over your nose. However, they offer a much lighter experience, which may be impeded by facial hair or have a more challenging time creating a seal, depending on your face shape. These are great if you tend to feel claustrophobic, as there is less of an apparatus on your face.

Nasal Pillow Masks

The nasal pillow masks are even more lightweight and unobtrusive than a nasal mask. They, too, only fit over the nose but tend to offer greater levels of openness and visibility. If you are prone to any amount of claustrophobia or have trouble sleeping in a larger mask, these make a great option.

Cleaning Your Sleep Mask

Once you have your sleep machine and mask, you’ll need to decide on the right cleaner or neutralizeant for you and your lifestyle. There are dozens of considerations to make, like how often you travel, your commitment to handwashing, leading research, ease of use, and speed. But first, you might ask why it’s so essential that you clean your gear?

The Importance of Cleaning Your Sleep Mask

As with any sleep equipment, you must perform maintenance and daily care for it to work correctly and keep you safe. To help prevent respiratory illness and infections like pneumonia, you have to clean your sleep mask daily.

Think about what touches your sleep mask. The oils, sweat, and dead skin cells from your mask sitting on your face can collect and become the perfect storm for bacteria and germs to grow.

Along with the mask, you have your hoses and tubing, which regularly create a moist environment. Even with health issues aside, regularly missing your sleep equipment cleaning sessions can make your machine last a shorter amount of time and decrease its effectiveness.

Sleep Mask Cleaners

Because it’s so important to clean your sleep equipment, there are tons of options for you, everything from plain soap and water to high-tech machines that use oxygen or light to blast away germs.

UV Sanitization

Choosing the right cleaner or neutralizeant for you requires a great deal of self-awareness. It’s important that you stay realistic with yourself. While soap and water are cheap, it’s likely to build up an odor or mildew due to how slowly the equipment dries out. Wipes are great, but they can’t reach inside hoses, where saliva bacteria grow and thrive outside. Later on, that germ culture can make you sick.

So, which is the right option for you?

Dangers Involved With Ozone Cleaners & Oxygen

One of the many questions when it comes to ozone cleaners is whether or not it’s safe.

The sad fact is that many manufacturers falsely advertise ozone cleaning as a safe option, but there is a reason to raise an eyebrow. The California Air Resources Board wrote in a report that “Inhalation of ozone can cause sufficient irritation to the lungs to result in pulmonary edema.

Some ozone cleaning products even say in the fine print to not use them with sleep equipment. Because of this, you should try to steer clear of these types of cleaners.

Spray Cleansers Can Be Tricky

Some spray cleaners on the market break down into a saline solution, making them air dry quickly. The trick with these is making sure the cleanser reaches every part of your sleep equipment.

If you forget to wipe them off fast enough, they can develop a film over the mask that can be difficult to remove.

Many of them claim to neutralize the germs that cause illness, but most are unproven.

Wipes Are Best For Dead Skin After Cleaning

Wipes can get your sleep equipment clean, but getting the wipe into the tubes and hoses can be challenging and may require additional tools. The cost can also build up over time, making cleaning sleep machines a cheaper option over time.

types of cleaners - wipes

With most other cleaning methods, dead cells are neutralized but not removed. Wipes can help remove any excess build-up of oil and skin cells that rub off onto the mask after cleaning.

For the outside of your sleep machine, however, they are a great option.

Soap and Water

Using an antibacterial soap and warm water is the traditional method of cleaning your hoses and tubing. While this method is effective, air-drying the mask and tubing can cause rot and mildew in the long term.

If you’re likely to own your for more than the next six months, it’s better to choose a different method to prevent odor or mildew.

UV Light Cleaners

Some of the newest cleaners on the market use UV light to get rid of the germs on your sleep equipment. Many of these are highly portable and quick, making it a great choice if you tend to forget to clean your sleep equipment.

Along with the ease, Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation, or UVGI, like that used in the Lumin has proven to be an excellent cleaning method. Lumin has even done research showing the effectiveness of UVGI on a range of bacteria and viruses.


Purchasing the right sleep mask for you and your health issues is essential. You deserve a good night’s sleep, and you shouldn’t have to worry about your breathing during the night.

Talk with your doctor about your options and which would be best for you. Choose a mask that is comfortable and works well with your face. And when purchasing a cleaner, be realistic about the time and energy each method takes. If you question your commitment to a lengthy process, opt for a UV cleaner as it’s the safest, fastest, and most effective option out there. Breathe easy and start getting better sleep today.

December 2, 2020 3

A. Giudice

A Sleep Professional with over 20 years of industry experience, a healthy respect for research and a slightly sarcastic writing style.