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Omega-3 fatty acids may help to improve sleep quality

Published on

18 September 2013

Increased intakes of docosahexaenoic acid from food or supplements could help to improve sleep quality and reduce the risk of sleep disorders in children, reports a new UK study.

In the observational study, sleep quality perception (based on questionnaires) and blood omega-3 fatty acid concentrations were investigated in 395 children, ages 7 to 9 (1). The study results showed that low omega-3 fatty acid – particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – levels were significantly linked to decreased sleep quality and an increased risk of sleep disorders. In a randomized controlled trial, sleep quality of a subgroup of 60 children, which received either a DHA supplement (600 mg DHA from algae per day) or a placebo, was measured. The results showed that supplementation resulted in an increase of blood DHA concentration and in improved sleep quality: the children who received DHA woke significantly less often during the night, slept more and slept more efficiently (improved ratio of time in bed to time asleep) compared to the placebo group.

The researchers commented that the observed effects were substantial but some of the findings are pre-liminary since the group of participants in the clinical trial was relatively small. They noted that these findings also confirm earlier results of the DHA Oxford Learning and Behaviour (DOLAB) study, which showed that DHA supplementation appears to offer a safe and effective way to improve reading and behavior in children who are healthy but underperform in school (2). Previous research has linked sleep disorders to behavioral problems


  1. Montgomery P. New preliminary data from the DOLAB study. Data presented at the Food And Behaviour Research symposium in London, UK, September 2013.
  2. Richardson A. J. et al. Docosahexaenoic Acid for Reading, Cognition and Behavior in Children Aged 7–9 Years: A Randomized, Controlled Trial (The DOLAB Study). PLoS ONE. 2012; 7(9):e43909.

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