In a United Kingdom study of hundreds of children, researchers have found that adding fish oil to children’s diets increased their nightly sleep time by nearly an hour. This startling finding may have important implications for children’s health and school performance. Fish oil is high in Omega-3s, a type of essential fatty acid.
Will kids take fish oil? You can hear the “Yucks!” Luckily for them, tasty, flavored fish-oil supplements have appeared on the market. Some grand- or great-grandparents may be jealous, if they recall being dosed with cod-liver oil. That was the stuff of nightmares for children years ago.
But maybe those generations were on to something, even before scientists began examining the positive potentials of fish oil. (Diets rich in omega-3s, the kind found in marine algae and seafood, offer the same benefits as supplements.)
Catch a fish, catch more sleep?
It’s not yet proven whether fish oil will have the same effect on adults who yearn for longer sleep with fewer awakenings. The researchers noted that the children tested were quite low in these essential fatty acids to begin with. But scientific interest is growing. Another study, for example, has indicated positive associations between high saturations of fatty acids in the body and better sleep in adults with sleep apnea.
Omega-3s have shown promise for a variety of health benefits for many age groups. They’ve been associated with decreasing asthma risk and strengthening brain development in children, and with improved cardiovascular, joint and bone health in adults. There are also indications that they can help relieve depression and reduce the risk of dementia.
Worth a try
It’s too soon for scientific certainty, but optimism seems appropriate. It’s reasonable to wonder, if fish oil can extend children’s sleep time, whether that might prove true for grownups, too. It certainly seems like an experiment to consider if early awakening is troubling you.
At the least, increasing your intake of essential fatty acids will improve your overall health. And if you’re feeling better, that should increase your chances of sleeping longer and more soundly. (Remember to check with your doctor before adding fish oil supplements to your routine. Or just eat a boatload more sardines!)