Food and Behaviour Research

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Differential Effects of DHA- and EPA-Rich Oils on Sleep in Healthy Young Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial - PubMed

Patan M, Kennedy D, Husberg C, Hustvedt S, Calder P, Middleton B, Khan J, Forster J, Jackson P (2021) Nutrients Jan 16;13(1):248 doi: 10.3390/nu13010248 

Web URL: Read this article on PubMed


Emerging evidence suggests that adequate intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), which include docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), might be associated with better sleep quality.

N-3 PUFAs, which must be acquired from dietary sources, are typically consumed at suboptimal levels in Western diets. Therefore, the current placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial, investigated the effects of an oil rich in either DHA or EPA on sleep quality in healthy adults who habitually consumed low amounts of oily fish.

Eighty-four participants aged 25-49 years completed the 26-week intervention trial. Compared to placebo, improvements in actigraphy sleep efficiency (
p = 0.030) and latency (p = 0.026) were observed following the DHA-rich oil. However, these participants also reported feeling less energetic compared to the placebo (p = 0.041), and less rested (p = 0.017), and there was a trend towards feeling less ready to perform (p = 0.075) than those given EPA-rich oil.

A trend towards improved sleep efficiency was identified in the EPA-rich group compared to placebo (
p = 0.087), along with a significant decrease in both total time in bed (p = 0.032) and total sleep time (p = 0.019) compared to the DHA-rich oil.

No significant effects of either treatment were identified for urinary excretion of the major melatonin metabolite 6-sulfatoxymelatonin.

This study was the first to demonstrate some positive effects of dietary supplementation with 
n-3 PUFAs in healthy adult normal sleepers, and provides novel evidence showing the differential effects of n-3 PUFA supplements rich in either DHA or EPA. Further investigation into the mechanisms underpinning these observations including the effects of n-3 PUFAs on sleep architecture are required.