Sleeping is fundamental to our good health. Being able to have a great night’s sleep is one of the fundamental benefits of feeling great and full of energy. In our stressful lives, getting the recommended eight hours of sleep is nigh impossible. In fact just worrying about not getting enough sleep is enough to keep me awake through the small hours. It’s worth looking though at supplements which might ensure we get a couple of great zzzzzzz’s.
Healthy sleeping habits are very important and they make a huge difference to our waking hours. If you miss a night’s sleep it leaves you feeling tired and out of sorts. It also means the body is deprived of some essential materials that keep us in good health with plenty of energy. The other important aspect is how sleep deprivation can lead to increased rates of diabetes, depression and obesity.
We know of at least one supplement that helps with sleeping but there is a critical nutrient which shines above all others. It might not be much of a surprise bu omega-3 fatty acids appear to be the key to all this.
We’ve often discussed omega-3 fatty acids in various articles such as improving brain health, fighting inflammation, maintaining joint and bone health, improving the risk factors associated with poor heart health and so on – even with cancer. The latest findings suggest that these same fatty acids help with maintaining regular sleep patterns.
If we have a relatively low level of omega-3 fatty acid content in the body, there is an association with poor sleep patterns especially in children. It has also been noticed in adults with obstructive sleep apnea. Here sleeping is disrupted by peculiar breathing behaviour. One fatty acid in particular, docosahexanoic acid seems to be highly prominent. Low levels of DHA are associated with low levels of melatonin which is a hormone that promotes sleep and is directly linked to sleep patterns and sleeping behaviour.
The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health looked at a range of dietary factors and their influence on the rise and fall of melatonin (Peuhkuri et al., 2012). The study emphasised the importance of melatonin. The paper is quoted as saying:
“Melatonin is secreted principally by the pineal gland and mainly at night time. Its most definitive physiological role is to convey information to the body about day length for a variety of physiological functions.”
Melatonin is manufactured from the amino acid tryptophan.
One of the most notable age groups to be affected by a lack of dietary long-chain omega-3 fatty acid are children. Sleep problems in children produce poor health, poor cognition and a range of behavioural issues. In another study at the University of Oxford, poor levels of omega-3 fatty acids was directly associated with poor sleep regulation (Montgomery et al., 2014).
It might not even matter if you need to specifically take supplements with fish oil in, as eating oily fish probably suffices. In another study, levels of sleep, general wellness including heart rate performance in relation to consumption of fish was examined. The overriding conclusion of that study was that fish consumption seemed to have a positive impact on sleep in general and also on daily bodily functioning.
It is recommended that consuming two portions of fish, ideally oily fish like salmon or sardines and pilchards would provide sufficient omega-3 fatty acids. If you are not a fish eater then, a supplement of fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids would do the trick.
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. J. Sleep Res., 23(4) pp. 364-88
Peuhkuri, K., Sihvola, N., Korpela, R. (2012) Dietary factors and fluctuating levels of melatonin. Food Nutr. Res. 56: 10.3402/fnr.v56i0.17252 (Article)