A randomised placebo-controlled study by the University of Oxford suggests that higher levels of omega-3 DHA, the group of long-chain fatty acids found in algae, nuts and seafood, are associated with better sleep.
New research published in the Journal of Sleep Research says Omega-3 fatty acids may help children sleep better.
Scientists at the University of Oxford compared the amount of omega-3 and omega-6 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in the blood of 362 healthy 7- to 9-year olds. The parents of the children were asked to fill out a questionnaire and rate the quality of their child’s sleeping habits. The children were then divided into two groups: one group which received a daily omega-3 supplement for 16 weeks, and one group that received placebo. The researchers found that the children with higher blood levels of the long-chain omega-3 DHA was associated with better sleep, including less waking during the night and less bedtime resistance. Improved sleep quality was also associated with a higher ration of omega-3’s to omega-6 fatty acids.
The researchers explored whether 16 weeks of daily 600mg supplements of algal sources would improve the sleep of the 362 children in the study. Interestingly, however, the children who took part in the study were not selected for sleep problems, but were all struggling readers at a mainstream primary school.
This exploratory pilot study showed that the children on a course of daily supplements of omega-3 had nearly one hour (58 minutes) more sleep and seven fewer waking episodes per night compared with the children taking the corn or soybean placebo.
Lead author Professor Paul Montgomery of Oxford University said: “To find clinical level sleep problems in four in 10 of this general population sample is a cause for concern. Various substances made within the body from omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have long been known to play key roles in the regulation of sleep. For example, lower ratios of DHA have been linked with lower levels of melatonin, and that would fit with our finding that sleep problems are greater in children with lower levels of DHA in their blood.”
Journal article: Fatty acids and sleep in UK children: subjective and pilot objective sleep results from the DOLAB study – a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Sleep Research, 2014. DOI: 10.1111/jsr.12135