Omega-3 and sleep: low levels also linked to lower melatonin levels
Are you reaching for your fifth cup of coffee for the day? If so, you are likely among the 50-70 million American adults who have some type of sleep disorder and could benefit from the combination of omega-3s and sleep
If you have a sleep problem, it is most likely insomnia which affects 30% of adults and 10% of those with chronic insomnia. You can also be among the 35% of Americans who don’t get enough sleep every night or the 48% who snore at night.
In addition, poor sleep can put you at increased risk of certain serious health problems such as metabolic disorders, depression, cognitive decline, and cardiovascular disease. Your diet can also affect your sleep, especially if it’s high in carbohydrates, sugar, or caffeine
Given the extensive research into the effectiveness of dietary supplements in treating a number of the health conditions listed above, it seems logical to consider how such dietary supplements could affect sleep behavior. A recent article in the journal Nutrients reported the results of a large sample study to determine the effects of omega-3 and sleep, as well as omega-6, on sleep duration and insomnia
Diet and sleep
The relationship between general diet and sleep is well established, particularly with regard to food sources. While we all know that caffeine at bedtime is contraindicated for most people to get a good night’s sleep, a 2017 article in Sleep Medicine Reviews found that the effects are more pronounced in the elderly
In other words, caffeine sleep loss increases with age. A 2018 article in Nutrients magazine reported some surprising results from a study of the effects of certain fruits and vegetables on sleep time.4 Despite their general health benefits, certain fruits and vegetables, especially those with phenols, can actually reduce length of time asleep. In some cases, an extra gram of total phenols from such fruits and vegetables could reduce sleep time by 18 minutes
Omega-3 and sleep quality
Although some supplements, such as melatonin, are specifically indicated for sleep problems, others have shown mixed results.
A recent article in Nutrients took a closer look at the relationship between omega-3s and sleep, and omega-6s and sleep quality.2 The researchers used self-reported survey data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007-16 to investigate the effects of both omega-3 and sleep and omega-6 on sleep disorders (18,310 subjects) and the duration of sleep (21,153 subjects).
The omega-6 versus omega-3 data had some interesting results. The data showed that respondents who consumed only larger amounts of omega-6 and a higher ratio of omega-6 compared to omega-3 were more likely to report sleep disorders and unusually short sleep lengths. In addition, only men who took higher amounts of omega-3 supplements were more likely to report normal sleep times. Therefore, the data seem to show that ingesting more omega-3s than omega-6s can improve sleep time and reduce the risk of insomnia
Omega-3 and the Melatonin Relationship
According to Healthline “[Too] low levels of omega-3s have been linked to sleep problems in children and obstructive sleep apnea in adults … Low levels of [omega-3] DHA has also been linked to lower levels of the hormone melatonin, which helps you fall asleep … Studies in children and adults show that omega-3 supplementation increases the length and quality of sleep. “
The positive effects of omega supplements on cardiovascular health and the link between poor sleep and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease are well known. This research could show how omega-3 can treat both health problems at the same time.
- American sleep bandage. Statistics on sleep and insomnia. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
- J. Luo, H. Ge, J. Sun et al. Associations of the consumption of -3, ω-6 fatty acids with food with sleep disorders and the duration of sleep in adults. Nutrient. 2021; 13 (5): 1475.
- Clark I, Landolt HP. Coffee, Caffeine, and Sleep: A Systematic Review of Epidemiological Studies and Randomized Controlled Trials. Sleep medicine reviews. 2017; 31: 70-78.
- Noorwali E, Hardie L, Cade J. Fruit and vegetable consumption and their polyphenol content are inversely linked to sleep duration: Prospective associations from the British female cohort study. Nutrient. 2018; 10 (11): 1803.