A good night’s sleep is important for general health, emotional well-being, thinking, and school performance in children. In contrast, poor sleep habits are linked to behavior problems and learning difficulties. Researchers at the University of Oxford may have found a safe way to improve a child’s sleeping habits. Sleep habits and blood levels of the omega-3 DHA were assessed in a group of 675 healthy children between the ages of 7- and 9-years-old, after which the children were give daily either DHA supplements (600 milligrams) or matched placebos. At the start of the study, blood levels of DHA were very low and sleep habits were rated as poor. Low DHA levels also were associated with higher total sleep disturbance scores. After 16 weeks of DHA supplementation, sleep habits had improved in the children who had been diagnosed at the start with clinical-level sleep problems. Sleep duration increased by 58 minutes with fewer night awakenings in the DHA group compared to the placebo group. The researchers conclude that, “….this is the first study to show that increasing children’s dietary intake of omega-3 DHA can improve their sleep.”
In Perspective: Although more research is needed, it appears that low intake of the omega-3 DHA reduces melatonin production and impairs dopamine metabolism, which then interferes with sleep patterns.
Richardson A: Omega-3 and sleep: New insights from the DHA Oxford Learning and Behaviour (DOLAB) study. Lipid Technology 2015; April 22nd.