A new study has claimed that drinking alcohol on a plane and then sleeping could be bad for heart health.

Academics from the Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Germany found that the combination of in-flight alcohol and cabin pressure at cruising altitude may put a strain on sleeping passengers’ hearts.

They claim that this combination of factors appears to lower blood oxygen and increase heart rate.

The researchers have recommended restricting access to alcohol on long-haul flights as a way to protect passengers.

How was the research conducted?

When passengers are on a plane they are in a hypobaric environment, which basically means they are in a place with low air pressure.

This is known to decrease oxygen levels in the blood and increase heart rate.

The researchers stated that air passengers with heart problems have an increased risk of aggravation of symptoms due to the decreased cabin pressure at cruising altitude, which is amplified during sleep, with alcohol having similar effects.

As a result, they wanted to test the impact of alcohol consumption and sleep in a hypobaric environment.

In total, 48 people aged between 18 and 40 were assessed, spending either two nights in a sleep laboratory or an altitude chamber.

The altitude chamber recreates the same altitude of a cruising aeroplane, and before one of the nights, the people drank alcohol.

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Sleep study tests were conducted which looked at heart rate and blood oxygen levels.

They found that the combination of alcohol and experiencing low oxygen concentration at high altitudes reduced sleep quality, “challenged the cardiovascular system” and led to extended duration of low blood oxygen levels.

The academics concluded: “Together these 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.”