Sleep Disorder Raises Heart Risks While Flying People with obstructive sleep apnea may be at greater risk for heart troubles during air travel, a new study shows. Sleep apnea is a common condition characterized by temporary breathing interruptions during sleep, often due to an upper airway obstruction. People with sleep apnea often snore loudly and gasp for air during sleep. In a new study, Australian researchers looked at oxygen levels and breathing patterns in healthy people and in 22 people with severe sleep apnea during a simulated flight. All study subjects were awake, and the conditions in the simulator mimicked oxygen and pressure levels typically found on commercial airline flights. The researchers found that people with obstructive sleep apnea had lower levels of oxygen in their blood before and during the simulated flight. People with apnea experienced higher heart rates, physiological stress and demand for oxygen than healthy people, according to the findings, presented this weekend at the American Thoracic Societys 2008 International Conference in Toronto. We addressed obstructive sleep apnea because it is becoming so much more common as obesity increases and there are greater numbers of obese passengers on commercial flights,' said lead researcher Leigh Seccombe, a senior scientist in the department of thoracic medicine at Concord Repatriation General Hospital in Sydney. The results suggest patients with obstructive sleep apnea are at higher risk for heart problems during air travel, and raise questions about whether patients with severe apnea should travel with supplemental oxygen, the way patients with other lung diseases do.