According to a 2014 National Sleep Foundation Poll, many kids in the United States are not getting a sufficient amount of sleep each night—which the National Institutes of Health say should be around 10 hours nightly for school-age children. But what if helping our little ones catch more shuteye were as simple as adding a daily fish oil supplement to their diet?
A recent study out of Oxford University examined the effects of Omega-3 DHA supplementation (600 mg daily) on more than 350 children ages 7 to 9, about 40 percent of whom suffered from regular sleep disturbances. Results of the 16-week study, slated to be published in an upcoming Journal of Sleep Research, revealed that the kids who received the Omega-3s as opposed to a placebo slept about an hour longer each night and had fewer waking episodes. Professor Paul Montgomery, lead author of the study, believes he knows why.
“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,” said Montgomery. “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.”
DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is a beneficial Omega-3 fatty acid found abundantly in cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna. In previous studies DHA has been linked to better sleep quality in children, as well as improvements in thinking and behavior. However, because getting children to each fish can sometimes be a challenge for parents, supplementation is often a beneficial alternative.
Says co-investigator Dr. Alex Richardson, “…this randomized controlled trial does suggest that children’s sleep can be improved by DHA supplements and indicates yet another benefit of higher levels of Omega-3 in the diet.”