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New Research Suggests That Drinking Alcohol And Sleeping During Air Travel Can Cause Significant Blood Oxygen Level Decreases And Heightened Cardiac Strain, Even In Healthy Young Adults

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS - stock.adobe.com - illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

After traveling to the airport, lugging heavy luggage, trudging through long TSA lines, and racing to your gate, arguably the best part about finally boarding your flight is being able to order a cocktail, sit back, and relax.

But, if you choose to indulge in some drinks during air travel, you might not want to get too comfortable.

A new study has found that combining alcohol with sleeping at high altitudes can actually cause significant decreases in blood oxygen levels, as well as heightened cardiac strain, even in healthy and young individuals.

When flying on a commercial airplane, the cabin is usually pressurized to an altitude of approximately 8,000 feet, which is similar to the height of a small mountain. So, the air is thinner and has less oxygen at this altitude compared to sea level.

The human body is typically able to adapt to these conditions while sober. However, the consumption of alcohol may interfere.

This latest research was conducted by scientists at the German Aerospace Center and included 40 study participants, who were aged 18 to 40. The participants were split into two different groups. The first group slept in a standard sleep laboratory at sea level; meanwhile, the second group snoozed in a simulated airplane environment inside an altitude chamber.

The chamber was pressurized to 2,438 meters, which is equivalent to typical cruising altitude air pressure.

Participants in both groups slept one night after drinking alcohol – specifically vodka. Then, they spent another night sleeping sober.

The amount of alcohol consumed by each participant was intentional, aiming to achieve a blood alcohol level of 0.04%. This translated to approximately two beers or two glasses of wine. Additionally, the sleep window was restricted to just four hours from 12:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. This was done to replicate a typical sleeping period while aboard a flight.

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

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