Avoid drinking to nap before your next flight

Research shows that drinking before a long flight can hurt your ability to sleep and rest while in transit.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida / Gary Hershorn/GettyImages

Drinking and driving is not only a massive misstep, but an actual crime. Drinking and flying, however, is a bit more common and sometimes relaxing or fun. However, new research is pointing to the possibility that drinking and sleeping on a flight may not be so good for you after all.

Rabea Antonia Trammer, Daniel Rooney, Sibylle Benderoth, Martin Wittkowski, Juergen Wenzel, and Eva-Maria Elmenhorst put together a study in Throax that points to several issues for passengers who consume alcohol right before or during long-haul flights. According to their research, the decreased oxygen in a pressurized airplane cabin can cause a passenger to experience even lower levels of oxygen in their blood.

“Please don’t drink alcohol on board of planes,” Dr. Elmenhorst said in the report. “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.”

Many individuals drink alcohol before the flight to help them sleep while in transit. However, the quality of sleep obtained is not that good according to the researchers. Time in REM sleep – also known as rapid-eye movement – was shorter for people who consumed alcohol before or while on the plane. Also, people who drink before sleep are more likely to wake up numerous times, rather than sleeping straight through the night or session. And at all costs, avoid mixing sleep aids with alcohol to help you sleep during the flight.

The report offers other suggestions on how to get a “decent” rest while on the flight. That includes doing such things as taking a flight closer to your own sleep habits so you can feel more prone to rest during that time. Staying hydrated also helps. Getting up to move around while on long flights can also help you get better rest when the time comes.

When you’re preparing for your next long flight, take precautions to skip heavy drinking. While you may think you’re going to get better sleep, you may set yourself up for a worse experience in which you come out even more tired than you went in.