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Exploring The Relationship Between Omega 3 and Sleep

There is always a lot of talk about omega 3, and why it is important to ensure to get enough intake on a daily basis, or at least regularly each week. The three important fats that comprise it are ALA, EPA and DHA. If we need to refer to them throughout this article, we will keep them to these simple abbreviations, as the full names are a little difficult to retain!

The main functions are:

  • Importantly, they protect the heart, cells and blood vessels from invaders such as disease or serious illness.
  • They can assist in removing harmful fats that occur in the body after consuming food.
  • They improve overall circulation to every cell in your body, including heart and brain functions.
  • The body cannot create enough essential fats to maintain health, so some must be gleaned from a diet with enough foods containing higher levels of the important fats (not the “bad” fats which create more danger of high cholesterol).

Can Lack Of Omega 3 Cause Sleep Problems?

According to surveys carried out by Oxford University, it certainly can. A controlled placebo-regulated study by the University of Oxford suggests that higher levels of omega-3 DHA, the group of long-chain fatty acids found particularly in algae and seafood, are associated with better sleep. Whilst other fatty acids in the body have other health benefits, DHA proved to be the most efficient when it came to brain function, slow learning and short attention span. Even children seemed to be affected, often falling asleep at their desks at school! Adults are also susceptible to the same problems, suffering from tiredness and exhaustion in the afternoons, particularly if lunches are taken on a ‘grab and go’ basis. It is not totally down to a sugar slump, which has been believed for a long period of time.

Obviously, not all sleep problems are caused by lack of omega 3, it can also happen with lack of dietary input of other healthy foods. It will certainly need a test to ascertain what is causing the problem, as taking unnecessary supplements will not cure it forever, and it will then leave you with a very unhealthy empty purse.

So, What Are The Best Foods To Eat?

As a guideline, the following foods would be the best to include:

Fish: Oily fish are nutritious powerhouses for omega 3:

  • Sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, herring.
  • Some seafood, such as oysters, prawns, crab and lobster (however, the actual fish listed, rather than shellfish is more nutritionally beneficial)


These do not contain much of the healthiest fatty acid (ALA), so it is essential to get a lot of these in order to glean that particular one. The body can convert this acid, but only in very small quantities

If you are going to pick something that will benefit you, Brussels sprouts are the best choice, followed by spinach. Yes, we realise this would never be the first choice for a lot of people, but be inventive by trying them in different ways, not just boiling or steaming. One thing to note is that cooking them makes them better and more nutritious than raw ones.

Nuts & Seeds:

Now you are talking! Did you know that just one teaspoon of chia seeds can provide your daily intake and provide you with what you need? It’s a nutritional fact.

Other good choices:

  • Walnuts
  • Soybeans
  • Chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds

Any nuts that are pressed and used in oils provide a concentrated dose of omega 3.

Some meat and dairy products will also contain omega 3 if the produce is taken from grass-fed livestock.

Interestingly, whilst avocados are known to contain omega 3, it doesn’t really provide enough of the particularly healthy fatty acids which are the most effective on the brain. The conclusion reached by looking at studies by omega 3 specialists show that there are strong reasons to believe that this will help your brain function, hopefully enabling you the ability to sleep better.

The production of such ‘metabolites’ influences gene expression, oxidative stress, cerebral blood flow, levels of neurotransmitters, and other brain-related processes such as the production of new neurons. Without them, the brain would not exist! Make sure you adjust your intake, and you will have a stronger body and mind in all aspects.

Sian Baker

Medically reviewed by Sian Baker, Dip ION mBANT mCNHC – Written by Beth Giddings.

Updated on 1st December 2021