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Why you shouldn't drink alcohol on a plane

© Markus Spiske/Pexels

When you travel by plane, it is very common, depending on the company, to be offered food and drinks, especially on long-haul flights. A study carried out by researchers from the Institute of Aerospace Medicine of the German Aerospace Center reveals, in fact, a truth that is disturbing to say the least. The combination of alcohol consumption and sleeping at altitude would exert additional pressure on an organ that is vital to say the least: our heart.

The combined effects of alcohol and altitude

To carry out their research, the researchers divided a group of 40 volunteers into four separate cohorts. Two of them slept under normal atmospheric pressure conditions, with or without alcohol consumption. While the other two groups were subjected to a simulation of the pressure prevailing in airplane cabins, again with or without ingestion of alcoholic substances.

To each of the participants concerned, a quantity of alcohol equivalent to two cans of beer or two glasses of wine was administered. They were then subjected to a rest period limited to four hours, thus mimicking the conditions of disturbed sleep that one can experience when traveling by plane.

In a normal pressure environment, volunteers who consumed alcohol had an average blood oxygen saturation of 94.97% accompanied by a heart rate of 76.97 BPM. In contrast, sober people had respective values ​​of 95.88% and 63.74 BPM. However, when subjected to the pressure conditions of an airplane cabin, oxygen saturation levels dropped drastically to ~60>85.32% for drinkers versus 88.07 % for abstainers, with heart rates climbing to 87, 73 BPM and 72.90 BPM.

Serious implications for cardiovascular health

Consumption of alcohol in conditions of altitude therefore leads to a more pronounced decrease in blood oxygen saturation levels, coupled with a significant increase in heart rate. Indeed, the clinical standard for acceptable blood oxygen saturation for good health is set at 90%, while the values ​​observed in flight prove to be lower than this threshold, ~60%. ~strong> therefore imposing an additional load on the cardiovascular system. A particularly alarming situation for people already subject to heart problems.

What's more, this double phenomenon of low oxygenation coupled with an acceleration of the rhythm heart rate results in a reduction in the time spent in deep and REM sleep phases, which are essential for optimal recovery. This means that not only does alcohol affect your heart health, it also disrupts the restorative quality of your sleep, exacerbating fatigue and stress following the flight.

A call for vigilance for passengers

Faced with this public health issue, researchers insist on the need to inform people. ” Public awareness on this subject should be reinforced by patient associations, public campaigns and written health advice from airlines ” they explain.

Certainly, the temptation to relax with a drink on the plane can be strong, whether to celebrate the arrival of the holidays or to unwind after a stressful business trip. Nevertheless, caution is still required, especially for vulnerable people or those of advanced age, who could be exposed to even more pronounced effects from this combination.

Nothing is more useless than demonizing any substance; educating yourself about its use is the best way to reduce its risks. Think about that the next time you order a whiskey or a beer while flying 12 km above the ground. In any case, moderation remains the key word when drinking, but even more so on board an airplane it would seem.

  • Researchers have established a link between alcohol consumption on an airplane and greater strain on the cardiovascular system.
  • Test subjects who consumed alcohol under pressurized cabin conditions had higher BPM and lower oxygen saturation than sober subjects.
  • For researchers, this discovery should be an opportunity for airlines to strengthen their awareness campaigns on this topic.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116