According to the American Sleep Association, sleep is essential for our survival and critical for our well-being.
But the truth is that most of us don’t get enough of it and in the US over 50 million Americans suffer from over 80 different sleep disorders!
While we sleep, our body goes through a variety of changes but the exact reason why we sleep is still unclear. But what’s for sure is that a lot is going on while you’re asleep and your body needs and uses this time to physically and mentally restore itself. Tissues repair themselves; hormones are released and your brain processes and reorganises memories to retain them.
But what if we don’t get enough sleep? And can food supplements like omega-3 fatty acids help us sleep better?
This is what we want to find out in this article.
Omega-3 fatty acids are nutrients that we consume through food, because our body is not able to produce them itself. They are essential for our health and well-being and are involved in a variety of processes in our body.
There are several different types of omega-3 fatty acids but some of the most important ones are called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which are mostly found in fatty cold-water fish like anchovies or salmon.
Omega-3 and Sleep
There is more and more research done on sleep and how we can improve it. A study from the University of Oxford has been looking into the link between certain food supplements and sleep duration and quality in kids in the UK.
They published their findings in the Journal of Sleep Research and found a positive effect of supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids on sleep for the children in the study group.
This could be linked to the fact that lower ratios of the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid DHA have been linked to lower levels of melatonin, which is a hormone that plays an important role in sleep. Higher levels of DHA are therefore associated with a possible improvement of sleep.
There are also several other studies suggesting that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids could improve the duration and quality of sleep. The scientists conclude that:
Other Health Benefits of Omega-3
Consuming sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids can be linked to many health benefits such as lower triglyceride levels, may improve joint pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties they have a lot of other health benefits for adults and kids alike.
According to estimates of the American Sleep Apnea Association, half of the world’s population is getting less sleep than they would need! And this even though sleep is the foundation of optimal health according to experts.
There are a variety of sleep disorders, the most common ones being:
- sleep apnea: pauses in breathing while sleeping
- narcolepsy: excessive daytime sleepiness
- insomnia: inability to initiate or maintain sleep
- restless leg syndrome: unpleasant creeping sensation in the leg that makes falling asleep difficult
These disorders can lead to interrupted and unsatisfying sleep and rest which can leave you tired and exhausted during the day or even lead to more severe health issues over time.
Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to a variety of health problems and this is why getting enough good quality sleep should be a priority in your lifestyle choices, just as a balanced diet and exercise.
A chronic lack of sleep and rest has been linked to chronic diseases and conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 3 diabetes and even depression.
On a short-term basis, it also leads to a lack of alertness during the day and increased sleepiness, impaired memory and lack of motivation for daily activities, which can even compromise your quality of life in the long run.
A lack of sleep is also associated with higher amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, which could be linked to some of the negative side effects of sleep deprivation listed above.
Now that we know how important it is to sleep well and how our diet can have a direct impact on our rest, let’s look at how much sleep we should get and some practical tips to help you fall asleep faster and enjoy uninterrupted rest.
A report from the National Sleep Foundation lists the following sleep-needs for 9 different categories based on age:
- Adults, 65+ years: 7 to 8 hours.
- Adults, 26 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours.
- Young adults, 18 to 25 years: 7 to 9 hours.
- Teenagers, 14 to 17 years: 8 to 10 hours.
- School-age children, 6 to 13 years: 9 to 11 hours.
- Preschool children, 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours.
- Toddlers, 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours.
- Infants, 4 to 11 months: 12 to 15 hours.
- Newborns, 0 to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours.
Of course there are some genetic, environmental and behavioral factors that change the individual sleep needs of a person but a minimum of 7 hours per night is recommended to improve health, say sleep experts.
Tips to sleep better
If you are having trouble falling or staying asleep, here are some practical tips to improve your night-time routine and sleep.
- Take it seriously: schedule sufficient time for sleep and rest even if you’re busy
- Stick to a schedule: wake up the same time everyday, even on the weekends
- Create a calming bed time routine: include relaxing activities like reading, yoga or a hot bath and put away screens at least an hour before you go to sleep
- Try natural remedies: Chamomile, CBD products or Valerian root have calming properties and can help you wind down
- Avoid: alcohol, caffeine and heavy meals in the evening
- And finally: if you wake up during the night, avoid looking at the lock so you don’t start calculating how much time you have left until you need to get up and get stressed about being awake
Sleep is crucial for our health and well-being and should not be neglected in our lifestyle choices. Even though we are living in a culture that glamorises being busy and stressed all the time, this is not the best choice for your body in the long run.
Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with a range of health conditions so it should not be taken lightly!
Omega-3 fatty acids are increasingly studied in correlation to quality and length of sleep and some studies have already established a positive link between the two.