I don’t know about you, but I used to have trouble sleeping. It’s was usually at the worst times too… like when I had an early morning appointment or class.
The problem really culminated in college. Yes, I pulled some late-nighters on the weekends, but during the week I had a strict 10:30 p.m. bedtime. I knew studying any later was a waste of time for me — that sleep was what I needed to get through those tests.
But the thing about insomnia is this… just because you crawl into bed, you don’t necessarily get good shut eye. So, I’d toss and turn most of the night.
I wasn’t alone with my problem. One of roomies had the same issue. But years later, mine seemed to just work itself out. But my friend mentioned over dinner (we were reminiscing recently over fun and not-so-fun times at school) that all these years later, she’s still tossing and turning.
Like most people who live with insomnia, she’s tried just about everything to win the sleep battle and failed — from changing her exercise routine to earlier in the day to limiting screen time in the evening.
But there’s one thing she wasn’t doing… that I had been for years — albeit for another reason.
While I was taking fish oil for my heart health, it was helping me sleep better the whole time…
The fishiest sleep remedy yet
The secret to better sleep might just lie in the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish.
That’s right… instead of popping an over-the-counter sleep aid to promote better sleep (that’s especially a bad idea the older we get!), we could all be better off eating a nice, juicy piece of salmon for dinner (or taking a fish oil supplement).
A team of researchers studied 541 schoolchildren in China between ages 9 and 11. They went over their diet and sleep patterns and even have them take an IQ test the moment they turned 12.
And they found that the kids who ate the most fish both slept better and had higher IQs. In fact, according to the researchers, the reason that eating fish resulted in IQ improvement was due to its effect on sleep. (Just think I may have breezed through college if I’d known this then!)
“There’s a relationship between fish consumption and higher cognitive functioning. What we document here is that it’s the better sleep that explains the relationship,” said Adrian Raine, researcher and professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “From A to B to C: From fish consumption to better sleep to higher cognitive functioning.”
And while you might be wondering if a study using growing kids could apply to you, the researchers say not to worry. Previous studies have demonstrated the power of omega-3s to enhance psychological functioning in adults so expecting to grab the same benefits is quite reasonable.
How do omega-3s improve sleep
So, how does it work? What makes omega-3 fatty acids such powerful sleep boosters?
Well, it all comes down to melatonin…
Yup, you’ve probably heard of melatonin before since many people take it before bed to try to help their sleep. It’s a hormone that’s produced by your pineal gland to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
And the secret of those omega-3s is that they’re not only building blocks for melatonin but also for certain prostaglandins, which are sleep/wake regulators in their own right.
This means that for all of us living with sleep problems, eating more fish could be the key to finally overcoming insomnia and getting some much-needed shut eye.
Fish with the highest omega-3 content include:
Or if you’re like me and you don’t get enough of these fish in your diet, you can get your omega-3s in supplement form.
Sleep problems can disrupt your entire life and leave you physically and mentally exhausted, but you don’t have to suffer. Take advantage of the results of this research, add more omega-3s to your daily life and get a good night’s sleep at last.