Emerging adults who received less than 7 hours of sleep per day and more than 9 hours of sleep per day experience increased risk of MetS.
College Health and Nutrition Assessment Survey (CHANAS): Expand for definition
An ongoing cross-sectional survey that’s been conducted annually at UNH since 2005, sampling young college adults (18-24). The survey is led by project director Jesse Stabile Morrell and co-conducted by undergraduate and graduate students from COLSA and other UNH colleges.
Emerging adult: Expand for definition
A critical transitionary stage from late adolescence to young adult years (ages 18-24), often associated with declines in healthy lifestyle behaviors and weight gain.
Metabolic health: Expand for definition
Refers to the state of an individual's metabolism, characterized by the optimal functioning of physiological processes, such as energy production, nutrient metabolism, and the regulation of blood sugar, lipids, and blood pressure, contributing to reduced risk of metabolic disorders and chronic diseases.
Metabolic syndrome (MetS): Expand for definition
A group of conditions, including blood pressure, hormone regulation, and nervous system activity, that occur simultaneously and can lead to increased risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome severity score (MSSS): Expand for definition
A numeric score of one’s MetS levels.
For many, the emerging adult (ages 18–24) life stage is transformational. Young adults might for the first time live away from their family, assume and begin to balance more personal and professional responsibilities, and start establishing lifestyle habits that can impact them not only as emerging adults for many future years. Two lifestyle components that are particularly critical to this life stage are healthy eating and getting enough sleep. And now new research supported by the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station (NHAES) suggests that it’s not just getting sufficient sleep that’s important, but it’s the right amount of sleep that can affect long-term health in this population.
The study, co-authored by NHAES scientist Jesse Stabile Morrell '99, '04G, '13G, indicates that while a lack of sufficient nightly sleep for emerging adults negatively impacts their body’s ability to beneficially respond to food (metabolic health), consistently oversleeping also has adverse effects. Morrell, a principal lecturer in the UNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture nutrition program and associate chair of the agriculture, nutrition and food systems department, co-authored the research with assistant professor of kinesiology Michael Brian and kinesiology graduate student Bilal A. Chaudhry '23G in the UNH College of Health and Human Services. The study was published in Nutrients.
Investigating “Often-overlooked” Behavioral Patterns
“Ultimately, our work hopes to highlight the impact of diet, lifestyle, and the environment on health among this important group. Plus, we want to help our campus community embrace policies, systems, and environmental changes that support health and wellbeing.” ~Jesse Stabile Morrell '99, '04G, '13G
Using data collected between 2012 to 2021 from the College Health and Nutrition Assessment Survey (CHANAS), the researchers assessed the relationship between sleep duration and emerging adults’ risk for metabolic syndrome—a group of conditions that occur simultaneously and can lead to increased risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. While the average reported sleep duration was 8.2 hours per day, both low sleepers and long sleepers—those with less than 7 hours and more than 9 hours of sleep per day, respectively—had higher metabolic syndrome severity scores (MSSS).
"This study offered an excellent opportunity to investigate an often-overlooked behavior pattern (sleep) and its relationship to metabolic health,” described Chaudhry. “Especially in this population where emerging adults, and primarily college-students, are prone to sacrificing sleep to study or to attend social events.”
“This new information shows us that we need to provide a greater emphasis on prioritizing the right amount of sleep among today’s emerging adults to encourage better metabolic health,” he added.
Existing guidelines for managing metabolic syndrome (MetS) typically focus on dietary and activity interventions as primary lifestyle modifications. However, findings from this recent study suggest that sleep should also be considered as a significant lifestyle modification to incorporate into these recommendations.
CHANAS: Supporting Critical Research Into College-aged Populations
Data from CHANAS, which Morrell initially established and has continued to update annually, contain information on the diet, activity and health outcomes of more than 10,000 UNH students from the past decade. In establishing CHANAS, Morrell set out to better characterize the health of UNH students.
Kelli Street, a student in the Master's in Nutritional Sciences with Dietetic Internship program, takes a blood pressure measurement.
“These data have allowed us to investigate a number of important areas of concern among our students at UNH, as well as subgroups who face unique challenges, such as students with disabilities, those facing food insecurity, and those who identify as LGBTQ+,” said Morrell. “Furthermore, they provide a wonderful training platform for our undergraduate and graduate students interested in nutrition and health research.”
“Ultimately, our work hopes to highlight the impact of diet, lifestyle, and the environment on health among this important group,” added Morrell. “Plus, we want to help our campus community embrace policies, systems, and environmental changes that support health and wellbeing.”
This material is based on work supported by the NH Agricultural Experiment Station through joint funding from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (under Hatch award number 7000630) and the state of New Hampshire.
This work is co-authored by Bilal Chaudhry, Michael Brian and Jesse Stabile Morrell.