Omega-3 and sleep: low levels also linked to lower levels of melatonin
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 sleeping disorder, and could benefit from the pairing of omega-3 and sleep.1
If you do have a sleep issue, it is most likely insomnia, which affects 30% of adults, with 10% of those suffering from chronic insomnia. You may also be among the 35% of Americans who don’t get enough sleep each night, or the 48% who snore at night.
Furthermore, poor sleep could put you at increased risk for certain serious health issues, such as metabolic disease, depression, cognitive decline and cardiovascular disease. Even your diet may adversely affect your sleep, particularly if it is high in carbs, sugar or caffeine.1
Given the large body of research on the effectiveness of supplements for treating a number of the health conditions listed above, it seems logical to consider how such supplements might affect sleep patterns. A recent article in the journal Nutrients reported the results from a large sample study to determine the effects of both omega-3 and sleep and omega-6 on sleep duration and sleep disorders.2
Diet and sleep
The connection between overall diet and sleep has been well-established, particularly in terms of food sources. Although we all know that caffeine prior to bedtime is contraindicated for restful sleep for most, a 2017 article in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews noted that the effect is more pronounced for older people.3
In other words, loss of sleep due to caffeine will increase with age. A 2018 article from the journal Nutrients reported some surprising results from a study on the effects of certain fruits and vegetables on sleep duration.4 Despite their general health benefits, certain fruits and vegetables, particularly those with phenols, may actually reduce the length of time asleep. In some cases, an additional gram of total phenols from such fruits and vegetables could cut sleep time by 18 minutes.4
Omega-3 and sleep quality
Although some supplements, such as melatonin, are specifically indicated for sleep issues, others have shown mixed results.
A recent article in the journal Nutrients took a closer look at the relationship between omega-3 and sleep, and omega-6 and sleep quality.2 The researchers used self-reported survey data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007–16 to examine the effect of both omega-3 and sleep and omega-6 on sleep disorders (18,310 subjects) and sleep duration (21,153 subjects).
The omega-6 data vs. omega-3 had some interesting results. The data showed that survey subjects who consumed just greater amounts of omega-6, as well as greater ratios of omega-6 compared to omega-3, were more likely to report sleep disorders and unusually short sleep durations. Furthermore, only men who consumed higher levels of just omega-3 supplements were more likely to report normal sleep durations. Therefore, the data appear to show that consuming more omega-3 than omega-6 may improve sleep duration and reduce the risk of sleep disorders.2
Omega-3 and the melatonin relationship
According to Healthline, “[Too] low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with sleep problems in children and obstructive sleep apnea in adults … Low levels of [omega-3] DHA are also linked to lower levels of the hormone melatonin, which helps you fall asleep … Studies in both children and adults reveal that supplementing with omega-3 increases the length and quality of sleep.”
The positive effects of omega supplements on cardiovascular health, as well as the link between poor sleep and increased risk for cardiovascular disease, are well-established. This research may show how omega-3 can concurrently treat both health issues.
- American Sleep Association. Sleep and sleep disorder statistics. Accessed June 28, 2021.
- Luo J, Ge H, Sun J, et al. Associations of dietary ω-3, ω-6 fatty acids consumption with sleep disorders and sleep duration among adults. Nutrients. 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 associated with sleep duration: Prospective associations from the UK Women’s Cohort Study. Nutrients. 2018;10(11):1803.