OXFORD, United KingdomIndividuals who have trouble sleeping may want to increase their dietary intake of omega-3-rich foods like leafy green vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts, and fish and fish oil, according to a new study published in the Journal of Sleep Research.
Previous research has suggested links between poor sleep and low blood omega-3 long-chain fatty acids in infants and in children and adults with behavior or learning difficulties. For this study, researchers at the University of Oxford investigated possible links between sleep and fatty acid status in healthy children.
The two-phased study looked at sleep in 362 healthy 7-to 9-year old school children in relation to the levels of omega-3 and omega-6 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) found in fingerstick blood samples. At the start of the study, parents and caregivers were asked to rate their child’s sleep habits over a typical week (using a three-point scale). Their responses to the well-validated Child Sleep Habits Questionnaire indicated that 40% of the children had clinical-level sleep problems, such as resistance to bedtime, anxiety about sleep and constant waking in the course of the night.
The study found that higher blood levels of the long-chain omega-3 DHA (the main omega-3 fatty acid found in the brain) are significantly associated with better sleep, including less bedtime resistance, parasomnias and total sleep disturbance. It adds that higher ratios of DHA in relation to the long-chain omega-6 fatty acid AA (arachidonic acid) are also associated with fewer sleep problems.
“To find clinical level sleep problems in 4 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," said lead researcher Paul 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."
Another study conducted at the University of Oxford and published in the journal PLoS ONE found increasing docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) intake may help healthy kids who underperform in school improve reading and behavior.
For more information on fatty acids check out Food Product Design’s Content Library articles on Fats and Oils.