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Sleep and recovery in airplanes

Elmenhorst, E.-M. and Rooney, D. and Pennig, S. and Wittkowski, M. and Vejvoda, M. and Wenzel, J. (2012) Sleep and recovery in airplanes. German-Chinese Symposium, 21.-23.06.2012, Berlin. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Introduction: With the steadily increase in number and duration of long-haul flights crews’ on-board sleep, recovery, and performance is an important matter of safety. At cruising altitude passengers and crew sleep under hypobaric conditions in a cabin that is pressurized equivalent to an altitude of 8000 ft. Methods: In the DLR-pressure chamber, 24 healthy subjects (12 female, average age 27 years ± 4 SD) were investigated sleeping in a mock-up of a crew-rest-compartment. We simulated the ambient conditions of an airplane cabin at cruising altitude regarding the barometric pressure (75.3 kPa ~ 8000 ft), and the in-flight noise (70 dBA). Subjects spent 4h time in bed from midnight to 4am. Polysomnography, subjective sleep quality, and blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) were measured. A control group of 23 healthy subjects (9 female, average age 26 years ± 6 SD) had a sleep opportunity of 4h time in bed in private rooms of the DLR-sleep laboratory from midnight to 4am under normobaric environmental conditions without noise. Results: Under hypobaric conditions sleep efficiency (p<0.05) was decreased while wake after sleep onset (p<0.01) was increased. Deep sleep (p<0.05) and REM sleep (p<0.001) were reduced in favor of the light sleep phases (N1 and N2 p<0.05). Sleep period time (SPT) did not differ between groups. The subjective ratings (calmness of sleep: p<0.001; sleep depth: p<0.05) reflected the objective results. During sleep in the flight simulation, subjects spent 73% (± 29%) of SPT in a state of hypobaric hypoxia (<90% SpO2), 5% of SPT even below 85% SpO2. The mean SpO2 level in-flight was 88% (± 2 SD) with a mean minimum of 81% (± 3 SD). In contrast, the control group had a mean SpO2 level of 96% (± 1 SD) (p<0.0001) with a mean minimum of 91% (± 4%). Conclusion: Sleeping at cruising altitude caused hypobaric hypoxia. The recuperative value of sleep was reduced due to a decrease in sleep quality. Young and healthy subjects were clearly affected. Sleeping on board might present a risk factor for older flight crews or diseased passengers who might experience stronger effects.

Document Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)
Title:Sleep and recovery in airplanes
Authors:
AuthorsInstitution or Email of Authors
Elmenhorst, E.-M.eva-maria.elmenhorst@dlr.de
Rooney, D.daniel.rooney@dlr.de
Pennig, S.sibylle.pennig@dlr.de
Wittkowski, M.martin.wittkowski@dlr.de
Vejvoda, M.martin.vejvoda@dlr.de
Wenzel, J.juergen.wenzel@dlr.de
Date:2012
Status:Unpublished
Keywords:sleep, recovery, oxygen saturation, airplane, performance, hypoxia
Event Title:German-Chinese Symposium
Event Location:Berlin
Event Type:international Conference
Event Dates:21.-23.06.2012
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport
HGF - Program:Aeronautics
HGF - Program Themes:ATM and Operation
DLR - Research area:Aeronautics
DLR - Program:L AO - Air Traffic Management and Operation
DLR - Research theme (Project):L - Human Factors and Safety in Aeronautics
Location: Köln-Porz
Institutes and Institutions:Institute of Aerospace Medicine > Flight Physiology
Deposited By: Alina Sender
Deposited On:30 Oct 2012 09:34
Last Modified:30 Oct 2012 09:34

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