Adam Knowlden typing on a computer in his lab

UA Studies How Body Composition, Sleep Affect Chronic Diseases

A headshot of Adam Knowlden
Dr. Adam Knowlden

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A University of Alabama researcher will soon begin a leading-edge study that will investigate the relationship between body composition and sleep and their role in developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Dr. Adam Knowlden, associate professor of health science, was awarded a National Institutes of Health grant to develop a comprehensive body composition-sleep model that will lay the foundation for further research into the prevention and treatment of body composition and sleep-related cardiometabolic disease risk factors. Knowlden received the award in 2019 but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed his research.

“Body composition and short sleep duration are highly prevalent, interconnected risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases in adults,” said Knowlden. “However, a comprehensive model has remained elusive due to the complexity of the relationship between these two health-related states.”

Knowlden’s study will investigate the relationship between body composition and sleep duration while considering the participant’s gender, body composition and socioecological factors.

“The primary contributing factor we will explore is how body composition and poor sleep play a role in cardiometabolic diseases,” said Knowlden. “The difficult aspect with sleep is we have a classic chicken and egg scenario. We know that poor sleep leads to an out-of-sync hormone profile, including hormones that regulate hunger and satiation. This, in turn, leads to overeating, which causes weight gain. This weight gain, in turn, can lead to sleep apnea.”

The one-week study will include an in-lab component to collect cardiovascular and metabolic data, and an in-home sleep study and assessment. For the in-home portion, participants will be given Fitbits to track their quality of sleep.

“We want to start this study with members of the Tuscaloosa community because we can already see a correlation between sleep and obesity among a percentage of the population, but we don’t understand all the mechanisms causing the correlation,” said Knowlden. “By building a model, we will be able to clearly identify a mechanism we can focus on, which will hopefully prompt improvements in sleep and body composition since those two factors play a role in chronic diseases.”

Study participants will receive a $200 gift card and results from all cardiovascular and metabolic tests conducted. For more information on the study and to sign up, visit


Bryant Welbourne, UA Strategic Communications,, 205-348-8325


Dr. Adam Knowlden,