Can Sleep Apnoea Masks Cause Hair Thinning

Hollie Shirley / Hair & Skincare Editor

Sleep Apnea may not be causing your hair loss directly, but your mask, how you wear it and the straps can erode a thinning dent. So how can you combat this?

Sleep apnea (also called Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome) is a clinical disorder marked by frequent pauses in breathing during sleep. With each pause oxygen-supply to the body is cut off for a few seconds. As a result, the brain has to briefly wake up to re-open the airways before breathing can continue. Waking up several times at night can leave a person tired, excessively dizzy and sleepy during the day. Headaches and difficulty in concentrating can also occur. This experience can be scary and uncomfortable for both sufferer and family.

To mitigate these symptoms and improve breathing for sleep apnea patients, most Doctors recommend a CPAP. CPAP is an acronym for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. The CPAP is a machine which creates a form of positive airway pressure ventilation. The air is delivered via a mask which applies mild air pressure continuously to keep the airways open for people who struggle to breathe spontaneously on their own.

CPAP is a great solution for sufferers and serves as an alternative to positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP). However, it has been found to result in hair loss for wearers, especially in the areas where the mask strap sits across the head. Over time a CPAP can cause bald spots, hair thinning or a so called  “mask-dent” or CPAP dent, right across the back of the head where the mask rubs. This is because of surface friction between the rough elastic type strap fabrics and the delicate hair follicles of the scalp; and it is this friction that can cause hair loss and breakage. A cotton pillowcase can cause already cause friction against your delicate hair, however this is much worse for mask-wearing apnea sufferers who are already disposed to more tossing and turning at night.

The solution to reduction of friction is simply to provide an intermediary “glide-layer” between the two surfaces; much like a blister plaster favoured by runners; however for hair, there’s a more glamourous solution. Here are our tried and tested recommendations for stopping this friction-related hair loss.

Use a Silk Hair Wrap

Incorporating a silk hair wrap into your hair protection regime is the single most important step to avoid hair loss from CPAP masks. Silk is a natural protein just like your hair, so slides against it rather than “rubs it up”. A silk wrap like our Luna product can be work every single night and will last at least a year, making it more cost-effective than any fancy lotions and potions. Beyond protecting your hair from abrasion from the straps, silk will help to conserve your hair’s moisture, preventing dryness which can lead to hair breakage and more hair loss. If you can’t get away with a CPAP hair protector in the form of a turban, then a pillowcase could be a Godsend. Much more discrete and less apparatus on your crown (let’s face it – you’ve got enough going on already) a silk pillowcase will allow your head and mask-strap to glide on its’ surface. We’d hope a pillowcaes may also contribute to a better sleep for apnea sufferers as well as reducing friction too.

Use the right CPAP size and type

Using the appropriate CPAP will also help to stop hair loss associated with wearing CPAP masks. If the masks keep slipping out of place, you can be sure that returning them to place can cause friction and who knows? Your silk cover may even be off your head.

Look out for firm but not tight CPAP masks to ensure that you do not have to replace your silk headcovers or even the CPAP mask while sleeping.


Retain your hair’s strength

Having to wear a CPAP mask every night introduces some pressure to your hair and head. And that’s as real as it gets. The pressure may be mild, but it’s pressure anyway. Your best bet will be to ensure that your hair is strengthened to withstand whatever pressure your CPAP mask may bring.

How can you help your hair stay strong?

First, do not wash your hair too frequently. Water gets the hair weak and frequent washing leaves little or no time for the hair to regain bounce. Consider washing your hair only twice or thrice a week to ensure that your hair is strong and healthy.

You can also use shampoos, conditioners, and other hair care products that contain nutrients that promote hair strength and health. Try to avoid sulfates which will lead to drying out your hair.


Have a nighttime hair regime

There will be days when you will forget that you are supposed to wear your silk headcover before putting your CPAP mask on.

To mitigate this, have a nighttime hair regime. This nighttime hair regime will help you always remember never to wear your CPAP mask without a silk headcover.

Even more, it’ll enhance hair growth because you will ultimately be doing the things that your hair needs to grow.

For instance, moisturizing your hair with water (spritz) and wearing your hair into a bun is a simple and great routine. You can look up other nighttime hair care routines that are suitable for your hair type.


Mask and strap liners

If you can get liners for your mask and its straps, please do. These liners will help to reduce the pressure and tension that comes as a result of the contact between the straps and your hair/head.

We hope these five solutions work for you and more importantly, the state of your mind as you try to reverse the damage caused by your CPAP mask, which is essential.

Hollie Shirley
Hair & Skincare Editor

Hollie Shirley is SILKUP’s hair and skincare editor. She’s obsessed with all things hair care and results-driven skincare, that is kind to the environment and your wallet. She has a weakness for limited edition eyeshadows and is always testing out the newest and greatest deep conditioners. Hollie has a passion for hair and is studying Trichology, working towards becoming a Member of the Association of Registered Trichologists.