HomeHealth CareStudy Finds Drinking and Napping on Long-Haul Flights May Harm Heart Health

Study Finds Drinking and Napping on Long-Haul Flights May Harm Heart Health

Cologne: Drinking alcohol and taking naps on long-haul flights may negatively impact heart health, even in young and healthy individuals, according to a study published Tuesday in the respiratory journal Thorax. The research reveals that this combination can significantly lower blood oxygen levels (SpO2) and increase heart rates for extended periods.

Researchers from the German Aerospace Center in Cologne, Germany, found that atmospheric pressure drops exponentially with altitude, causing a decrease in blood oxygen saturation levels to about 90 percent (73 hPa) in healthy passengers at cruising altitude. This condition, known as hypobaric hypoxia, or low blood oxygen levels at higher altitudes, is further exacerbated by alcohol consumption.

“Alcohol relaxes blood vessel walls, increasing the heart rate during sleep, an effect similar to that of hypobaric hypoxia,” the researchers explained, suggesting that limiting alcohol intake on long-haul flights might be beneficial, especially for elderly passengers with pre-existing medical conditions.

The study involved 48 participants randomly assigned to two groups. Half were placed in a sleep lab under normal ambient air pressure conditions (sea level), while the other half were in an altitude chamber mimicking cabin pressure at cruising altitude (2,438 meters above sea level). Each group had 12 participants who slept for four hours, both with and without alcohol consumption.

“The results indicate that, even in young and healthy individuals, the combination of alcohol intake with sleeping under hypobaric conditions poses a considerable strain on the cardiac system and might lead to exacerbation of symptoms in patients with cardiac or pulmonary diseases,” the researchers concluded.

This study emphasizes the potential health risks associated with drinking alcohol and napping during long flights, underscoring the importance of mindful consumption and consideration of individual health conditions while traveling at high altitudes.

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