Drinking alcohol before sleeping on a plane could be dangerous, study finds

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Travelers may want to think twice before having a glass of wine on a flight and then getting some sleep.

A new study published in Thorax, a monthly peer-reviewed publication of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), found that drinking alcohol and then falling asleep on a plane could lead to lower blood oxygen levels and increased heart rate.

The air in an airplane cabin already contains less oxygen than the air we usually breathe. Drinking alcohol can reduce oxygen levels even further, as can sleep, experts say.

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In the study conducted by the Department of Sleep and Human Factors Research at the German Aerospace Center, a group of healthy adults slept for two nights in a sleep laboratory.

Another group slept for the same length of time in a hypobaric (reduced oxygen) chamber that mimicked an airplane.

Consuming alcohol and then falling asleep on a plane could lead to a drop in blood oxygen levels and an increase in heart rate, a new study suggests. (iStock)

Before one of the parties, the participants consumed alcohol. The German researchers found that people placed in the hypobaric chamber had lower blood oxygen, a higher heart rate and a lower quality of sleep after drinking alcohol.

“[Airplane] Passengers with cardiopulmonary disease have an increased risk of worsening symptoms due to decreased cabin pressure at cruising altitude, which is amplified during sleep,” the researchers wrote.

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“Alcohol, which is often consumed on board, has similar effects, but the changes induced by hypobaric hypoxia are generally more pronounced.”

According to the researchers, this is the first study evaluating the combined impact of hypobaric hypoxia (low oxygen concentration at high altitude) and alcohol during sleep.

“The study showed that the ability to compensate for lower cabin oxygen pressure in flight is worsened by both sleep and alcohol,” one doctor told Fox News Digital. (iStock)

Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at Langone Medical Center of New York and Fox News medical contributor, was not involved in the study but called it “well-executed,” although he noted that it was rather small, with fewer than 50 people.

“The study showed that the ability to compensate for lower cabin oxygen pressure in flight is worsened by both sleep and alcohol,” Siegel told Fox News Digital.

“Because of the alcohol and most likely your sleeping position, you are not getting any rest…

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