12 January - 20 June 2016

Sleep disturbance linked to low omega-3 levels - and supplements may help

12 Mar 14

In a study of 395 Oxfordshire schoolchildren, researchers found a significant negative relationship between initial levels in the blood of the DHA omega-3 fatty acid (docosahexaenoic acid, which is found in algae and seafood), and sleep disturbance. Sleep disturbance was assessed for all participants via parental completion of the Child Sleep Habits Questionnaire (CSHQ), which covers various areas including bedtime resistance, sleep onset delay and sleep duration. The sleep of a random subset of participants was also objectively measured using actigraphy and sleep diaries.

A randomised placebo-controlled trial was conducted involving 362 of the participants, to investigate the effect of DHA supplementation. Whilst no differences between the active treatment and placebo groups was seen in CSHQ responses, the subgroup assessed using actigraphy showed significant group differences: sleep duration improved by fifty-eight minutes more in the active treatment group, and they experienced fewer and shorter night-wakings.

The authors noted the strength of the study in terms of a large participant number, broadly representative of the general UK population within this age group (7-9 years), and highlighted the fact that the observed sleep improvements with DHA supplement intervention are comparable to those currently achieved via front-line intervention for child sleep problems. Nevertheless, they cautioned that the positive results were only observed in the small subgroup where actigraphy was carried out, and that as the participants were not selected for sleep problems, it may be premature to generalise the results to groups with clinical-level sleep problems. [Eurekalert], [ScienceDaily]

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