Why you shouldn’t nap after drinking on a plane: study

(NEXSTAR) – Whether it’s tomato juice, coffee or a stiff drink, many people have a go-to airplane beverage.

For those flyers who opt for a wine, beer or cocktail, a new study suggests that doing so while at altitude comes with health risks, even if the person is young and healthy.

“Passengers frequently drink alcoholic beverages during a long-haul flight and fall asleep afterwards,” the researchers wrote, noting that negative sleep effects were worse aboard a plane than on the ground. “Understanding the interacting effects of alcohol and sleep at altitude is therefore highly relevant.”

The authors of the study, which was published in medical journal Thorax, work at the Department of Sleep and Human Factors Research, Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne, Germany.

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The study compared two groups of people, ages 18 to 40, and monitored how their bodies reacted after consuming alcohol and sleeping four four-hour stretches in an environment with air pressure similar to that of a plane cabin.

The two groups, each with 24 people, were split in two so that 12 people consumed roughly the alcohol equivalent of two cans of beer, according to NBC, while the other 12 slept without drinking. After a two-day break, they switched roles.

The study found that, regardless of age, those who drank saw decreased blood oxygen levels (85% on average, vs. 95%), shorter REM cycles and increased heart rates – likely to make up for the lower oxygen level.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the normal oxygen saturation for health children and adults is between 95 and 100 percent.

“Our findings support the recommendations of the BTS Clinical Statement on Air Travel to avoid alcohol in the 12 hours preceding and during air travel when suffering from obstructive sleep apnea syndrome or obesity hypoventilation syndrome,” according to the researchers, who added that older passengers and those with pre-existing conditions may be especially at risk.

“Our findings strongly suggest that the inflight consumption of alcoholic beverages should be restricted,” the study says.

If you just can’t avoid that in-flight beer or cocktail, you may want to limit your consumption as the research team suggests “higher doses of alcohol could amplify these observed effects.”

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