Several studies in both animals and humans have found a bidirectional relationship between long-chain fatty acid levels and sleep duration. This is thought to be due, in part, to the fact that fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA) play key roles in the pineal gland. Higher plasma ratios of DHA: AA has been associated with better sleep duration and quality. A recent study aimed to evaluate the relationship between plasma DHA and AA with actigraphy-assessed sleep, following a cohort of adolescents from Mexico.
For the study, 550 children were selected from the Mexican Social Security Institute. The children were observed every six to twelve months, until they reached five years of age. Then they were taken back in to participate in seven days of wrist actigraphy during puberty (between the ages of nine to seventeen). Plasma levels were taken to measure the levels of DHA and AA in the blood of the adolescents. In particular the researchers wanted to assess weekends versus weekday sleep duration and how this related to DHA: AA levels.
The University of Michigan School of Public Health were shipped the plasma samples, which were then frozen at −80◦C. Then samples were tested at random. Sleep duration was calculated by the output of the actigraph, that monitored sleep-wake cycles. Looking at weekday sleep compared to weekend sleep patterns in the adolescents. Higher plasma DHA was associated with longer sleep duration at the weekend. Just 45-minutes extra sleep resulted in 95% higher DHA levels in the blood. Higher DHA levels also correlated with two additional servings of tuna/sardines per week and the female sex.
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