OXFORD, United Kingdom—Supplementation of long-chain omega-3s, and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in particular, were associated with seven fewer wake episodes and longer sleep duration—58 minutes of more sleep per night—in a subset of children, according to a new study published in the Journal of Sleep Research.
University of Oxford researchers explored whether 16-week supplementation of 600 mg of DSM’s life’sDHA™ Omega-3 (DHA from algae) per day verses corn/soybean oil placebo may improve sleep in children. Participants included 362 children ages 7 to 9 years recruited from mainstream schools in Oxfordshire, UK, who were underperforming in reading.
Researchers also assessed sleep patterns objectively in a random subgroup of 43 children by actigraphy (a non-invasive method of monitoring rest and activity cycles) and via sleep diaries completed by the children’s parents. The following variables were measured over five nights: sleep onset and offset times; sleep duration in minutes; minutes awake between sleep onset and offset; sleep efficiency (total sleep time divided by time in bed); sleep latency (minutes needed to fall asleep); number of wakings after sleep onset.
While the treatment trial did not show significant effects on sleep measures, as reported by the parent Child Sleep Habits Questionnaire (CSHQ), algal DHA supplementation did lead to an average of seven fewer wake episodes and 58 minutes of more sleep per night in the actigraphy subgroup of children.
The investigators also examined associations between blood fatty-acid concentrations from fingerstick blood samples and subjective sleep using the CSHQ in a large epidemiological sample of 395 children. Parents and caregivers were asked to rate their child’s sleep habits over a typical week on 45 items using a 3-point scale. Scores from the CSHQ questionnaire indicated 40% of the children had clinical-level sleep problems.
Higher levels of DHA in the blood were significantly associated with better sleep, including less bedtime resistance, parasomnia and total sleep disturbance. Additionally, higher ratios of DHA and the long-chain omega-6 fatty acid ARA (arachidonic acid) were associated with less sleep disturbances.
According to another recent study, individuals who consume a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may have larger brain volumes in old age equivalent to preserving one to two years of brain health. The findings also suggest higher levels of omega-3s could prevent or delay Alzheimer’s as well as normal aging.