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Increased Levels of Omega-3 Tied to Better Sleep

Update Date: Mar 06, 2014 02:21 PM EST

Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in certain fish and fish oil, have been linked to several health benefits. In a new study, researchers conducted a randomized placebo-controlled experiment in order to examine the effects of omega-3 DHA on sleep. The team from the University of Oxford reported that this particular group of long-chain fatty acids, which is often found in algae and seafood, could improve one's sleep.

For this study, the researchers recruited 362 children who had difficulty with reading at their primary schools. The children were between the ages of seven and nine, and resided in the United Kingdom. At the beginning of the study, the parents were asked to fill out the Child Sleep Habits Questionnaire regarding their children's sleeping patterns over the span of one week. Based on these answers, roughly four out of 10 children had some kind of frequent sleeping issue, which included avoiding bedtime, anxiety about falling asleep and constant waking throughout the night. The researchers confirmed the incidence of sleeping disturbance by fitting these children with wrist sensors to monitor how often they moved in bed over the span of five nights.

The children were given one of three pills, which were 600 milligrams of a supplement sourced from algae, a corn placebo or a soybean placebo per day for 16 weeks. The researchers discovered that children who took the supplement every day had 58 minutes more sleep than children who took either of the two placebos. The supplement group also had seven fewer waking episodes each night in comparison to the children in the placebo groups.

"To find clinical level sleep problems in four in ten 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," Lead author Professor Paul Montgomery of Oxford University said according to Medical Xpress. "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."

The Study, "Fatty acids and sleep in UK children: Subjective and pilot objective sleep results from the DOLAB study - a randomized controlled trial," was published by the Journal of Sleep Research.

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