The new cross-sectional study of 3816 adults aged 18 to 24 highlights the importance of these findings for targeting prevention strategies at an age where such symptoms may develop.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the relationship between sleep duration and metabolic disease risk in an emerging adult population,” the researchers from the University of New Hampshire stress.
They add: “This work provides evidence for future research to incorporate sleep, along with diet and activity, to the lifestyle intervention strategies utilized in reducing the severity of metabolic dysfunction and to better understand the effects of sleep on metabolic health.”
Sleeping for MetS
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a renewed emphasis on the importance of sleep for overall health and wellbeing. It has been increasingly established that adequate sleep has an important influence on metabolic and neurological health, with research highlighting the correlations between low sleep and decreased vagal tone and increased sympathetic activity.
This has been observed to lead to possible insulin resistance, hypertension, and subsequent obesity; symptoms mirroring those of MetS. In addition, studies have established a possible link between MetS prevalence and sleep, whilst previous data from the 2013/2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) also notes these associations with MSSS.
Prevalence of MetS is ever rising, with 36.9% of US adults meeting the criteria in 2016, whilst young adults follow a similar trend. The associated metabolic risk factors substantially increase the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes in such individuals.
Paired with this, significant reductions in sleep duration in young adults is a common occurrence following major lifestyle changes. Thus, the researchers sought to investigate sleep duration within this population of 18- to 24-year-olds and the subsequent prevalence of MetS, whilst additionally examining MetS severity scores.
Students enrolled in a general education, introduction to nutrition course, at the University of New Hampshire, were recruited as part of an ongoing cross-sectional study from the College Health and Nutrition Assessment Survey.
The researchers used study data from 2012 and 2021 determining MetS prevalence, which involved the collation of anthropometric data and biochemical measures through in-person tests following an overnight fast. Sleep duration and physical activity information were obtained through online health behaviour questionnaires.
Post analysis using ANCOVA, which adjusted for covariates including age, sex, and BMI, it was established that MetS (≥3 criteria) was present in 3.3% of the 3816 students studied, while15.4% of students met ≥2 of MetS criteria.
A mean sleep duration of 8.2 h/day was reported, as well as a MSSS score of -0.65. It was reported that MSSS was higher among those with reduced sleep durations (<7 h/day), as well as long durations (>9 h/day) compared to reference sleepers (7-8 h/day).
“These findings bring attention to the effect of sleep on metabolic biomarkers during a formative stage of life. As the behaviours that individuals acquire in this stage of life are often retained throughout adulthood, the data raise attention to the relationship between poor lifestyle habits and physical health and wellbeing,” the researchers state with regards to their findings, highlighting a need for sleep to be considered in existing lifestyle modification recommendations to prevent and treat MetS.
The report urges the need for “effective assessments, education, and policies related to healthy lifestyle habits in young adults in order to attenuate the onset and progression of metabolic syndrome and the burden of future chronic disease.”
Whilst the findings provide strong evidence that sleep hygiene may correlate with MetS prevalence, there is a need for future study to measure more specific areas of sleep to improve data accuracy, such as REM sleep and sleep continuity. In addition, RCTs using samples for representative of the overall population are required to establish a causal relationship to enable the influence of the findings on future health policies.
“The Relationship between Sleep Duration and Metabolic Syndrome Severity Scores in Emerging Adults”
by Bilal A. Chaudhry, Michael S. Brian and Jesse Stabile Morrell