A new randomized placebo-controlled UK study which analyzed the sleep of 362 healthy school children (ages seven to nine) has found that those who took daily 600 mg of algal DHA supplements for kids for 4 months had nearly one hour more sleep and seven fewer waking episodes per night when compared with the children taking the corn or soybean placebo. In particular, the study found that higher blood levels of omega-3 DHA were associated with better sleep in healthy young children.
The child participants in the study were chosen because they were struggling readers at UK mainstream primary schools and not because they have sleep problems.
At the start of the new study, parents were asked to fill out a sleep questionnaire to rate their child's sleep habits over a typical week. The questionnaires showed that 40% of the child participants had sleep problems, such as resistance to bedtime, constant waking throughout night and anxiety about sleep. The UK researchers then placed wrist sensors on 43 of the children with poor sleep in order to monitor their movements in bed over five nights. The child participants in the study were a broadly representative of the more general population of UK children aged 7–9 years and their blood fatty acid status were measured objectively using the fingerstick blood samples method.
The main essential fatty acids in the human diet are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include fish oil and certain plant and nut oils, while omega-6 fatty acids can be found in soybean, rapeseed, palm and sunflower oils.
Fish oil contains two omega-3 fatty acids called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Omega-3fatty acids have been linked to healthy aging throughout life. In the United States, percentages of DHA and EPA have been found to be lower when compared to other nations.
DHA is essential for the growth and functional development of the brain in infants. DHA is also required for maintenance of normal brain function in adults. The best dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids is oily fish because the human body cannot produce them.
Keep in mind that the new UK study does not actually prove that taking daily DHA supplements will cause the children to sleep better but merely establishes that there is a positive link.
While adrenal fatigue has many causes, stress being one major cause, insufficient sleep is another major reason for the development of this condition. Setting the stage for later adrenal fatigue may be a result of kids not getting good sleep. Keeping in mind that even kids experience stress in this stress-filled world of ours, getting enough sleep as kids may assist them later in life to handle stress more adequately.
DHA supplementation that may increase good sleep in kids may lead to better functioning of all the body’s systems. This functional approach to the way the body works is in line with the NeuroEndoMetabolic model of stress response. Better sleep will positively affect all organ systems and make them more resistant to the effects of stress. Helping all of the body’s systems deal with stress more effectively will also help ward off negative effects that can lead to disease states.
Deficiencies of DHA have been shown to be the sixth highest killer of Americans, according to research conducted at Harvard University. Thus, beginning DHA supplements for kids can be a major preventative step in reducing deaths from these deficiencies.
Besides increasing sleep in kids, benefits of DHA supplementation include lowered risk of heart disease and stroke, decreasing symptoms of depression, high blood pressure, arthritis, and chronic skin diseases.
Deficiency of Omega-3 seems to be widespread in the U.S. Most Americans get plenty of Omega-6 fats, but not Omega-3. While the Omega-6 fats aren’t especially bad for the body, if they are consumed in the absence of sufficient Omega-3, inflammation may result, often leading to chronic illnesses. The balance of these two fats is important. A healthy ratio is 2:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3. In the U.S., the balance of the fats is more likely to be 20:1.