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Scientists issue warning to those who drink alcohol then nap on flights after study finds concerning results

Scientists issue warning to those who drink alcohol then nap on flights after study finds concerning results

Experts are calling for a ban on on-board alcohol consumption.

A new scientific study has found that a common airport habit could be wreaking havoc on your health.

Frequent fliers who drink alcohol will know the joy of cracking open a cold one or diving head-first into a glass of wine in the airport lounge.

However, experts have revealed that indulging in a tipple or two before boarding your flight and dozing off could prove fatal - even for the healthiest of passengers.


Researchers in Germany have discovered that a combination of alcohol and cabin pressure at cruising altitude can lower blood oxygen levels and thus put a strain on holidaymakers’ hearts.

Results also claim your heart rate is likely to increase after a snooze in the clouds if you drink before or during the flight.

Due to this recent report, heart experts - such as Dr Eva-Maria Elmenhorst, of the German Aerospace Centre in Cologne - have issued warnings to airlines regarding the on-board consumption of alcohol.

Speaking to NBC News, Dr Elmenhorst said: “We were surprised to see that the effect was so strong.

“The situation might be different for passengers with pre-existing medical conditions. Their oxygen saturation might be low to begin with and then drop to even lower levels.

“So medical conditions might exacerbate leading to in-flight medical emergencies.


She added: “I would advise people with heart or lung conditions to avoid drinking alcohol on planes.”

The report, published in the journal Thorax on May 3, saw a team from the Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne testing the impact of alcohol consumption on sleep in low air pressure.

They appraised 48 people, aged 18 to 40, and split the participants into two groups.

One cohort slept in a room with normal pressure while the second slept in a chamber mimicking the plane cabin pressure of a mid-flight aircraft.

In each 24-person group, 12 people had consumed the equivalent of two cans of beer or two glasses of wine, while the remaining test subjects abstained from alcohol.

Researchers found that those who drank alcohol and slept in a low-pressure environment experienced a reduction in sleep quality.

They claimed this ‘challenged the cardiovascular system’ which led to an extended duration of low blood oxygen levels.

“The oxygen saturation dropped to quite low levels during sleep," said Dr Elmenhorst.

"This is why I would recommend to avoid drinking alcohol even when someone is healthy.”

Results of the study said that even in young and healthy individuals, the combination of alcohol intake ‘posed a considerable strain on the cardiac system’.

“[This] might lead to exacerbation of symptoms in patients with cardiac or pulmonary diseases,” the authors concluded.

Following the scientific study, academics from the Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Germany have said: “The on board consumption of alcohol is an underestimated health risk that could be easily avoided.

"It may be beneficial to consider altering regulations to restrict the access to alcoholic beverages on board."

So while you’re still able to access your drinks on most airlines, this practice could become a thing of the past sooner rather than later.

Featured Image Credit: Chalabala/ArtistGNDphotography/ Getty