Fatty acids are essential for brain development and support many functions throughout the body. In particular, Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) are critical for optimal health and functioning.
A recent research study out of the United Kingdom has demonstrated a connection between levels of DHA and child sleep issues. They found that 40% of the children in the study, who were 7-9 years old, had difficulties with sleep. Of these children they found that those with lower levels of DHA in their blood had increased problems with initiating and maintaining sleep. When these children received a supplement containing a marine algae supplement high in DHA their sleep improved in comparison to the control group who received a placebo supplement. Specific sleep improvements included a reduction in the number of night wakings, better quality of sleep, and an average of 58 minutes more of sleep each night. These improvements were measured via actigraphy, which allows for a detailed analysis of sleep quantity and quality.
While this study does not shed light on why DHA levels are related to sleep issues in children, it adds to the growing body of research literature spotlighting the importance of Omega-3 fatty acids for child health and development. Appropriate quality and duration of sleep is critical for children, and problems with sleep can reduce functioning in many areas. It appears that supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA, can be a simple and valuable strategy for supporting sleep in children.
Montgomery, P., Burton, J.R., Sewell, R.P., Spreckelsen, T.F., & Richardson, A.J. (2014). Fatty
acids and sleep in UK children: Subjective and pilot objective sleep results from the DOLAB
study – a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Sleep Research, 23(4), 364-388. Retrieved