Fish Oil and Insomnia

April 8th, 2009

Ask VinEveryone keeps talking about the benefits of fish oil and krill oil, but when I take either of these, I have trouble sleeping. Any suggestions?

Fish oil and krill oil are popular health supplements primarily because of their fatty acid content. While fat doesn’t deserve the villainous reputation it’s been given, most people know about the importance of the omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Because they can’t be produced by the body, these essential fatty acids must be supplied through diet.

Although we’ve evolved to require these fatty acids in an approximately equal ratio, the typical modern diet is very high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids. As this knowledge becomes more widespread, more and more people are supplementing their diet with omega-3 fatty acids. Because this particular fatty acid is most commonly found in fish, fish oil is a very popular form of supplementation.

Although it’s not common for fish oil to interfere with sleep, there are several possibilities as to why it would.

Food and Chemical Sensitivity

We all have sensitivities to certain foods and chemicals that can cause a wide variety of delayed symptoms including headaches, joint pain, skin irritation, and insomnia just to name a few. Although pure oils rarely cause sensitivity reactions, the chemicals that are commonly found in fish oil and krill oil certainly can. Because all water is polluted to some extent, and because of the processing fish oil and krill oil go through, it’s very difficult to find brands of these oils that are completely free of chemicals.

Fat and Your Metabolic Type

Metabolic Typing is a nutritional philosophy based on the fact that our ancestors have evolved to thrive on the foods that were immediately available to them. As such, we each have unique requirements in regard to how much protein, fat and carbohydrate are needed to support optimal function. The amount of fish oil or krill oil that you’re consuming could possibly be exceeding your need for fat, and this could certainly interfere with your sleep.

Toxic Overload

Unless the body is in a state of optimal health, it’s detoxification capabilities are likely to be compromised. Because of this, the body may have difficulty processing toxins and may even become sensitive to common supplements. Because sensitivity to foods and supplements was mentioned in regard to this question, it sounds as if this could very well be another possible cause of the reactions to the fish oil and krill oil.

Fatty Acid Imbalance

As previously mentioned, the ideal ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acid consumption should be roughly equal. While most people consume too much omega-6 fatty acid, it’s entirely possible to overcompensate and consume too much omega-3 fatty acid. However, if you don’t have problems with other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, then this is unlikely to be the problem.

Sleep Habits

Despite the fact that fish oil and krill oil are believed to be the cause of insomnia in this case, sleep habits may still be a factor. To rule out sleep habits as the cause of the problem, and to improve the odds of getting a full night of sleep, the first response to sleep issues should always be to follow excellent sleep habits as closely as possible.


First and foremost, take a close look at your lifestyle and the 7 foundational factors of optimal health to see if you can identify any opportunities for improvement. Doing so will help strengthen your detoxification system as well as your health. More specifically, make sure you’re consuming an adequate amount of water and consider getting started on the Metabolic Typing Diet.

To reduce the burden on your detoxification system, eat organic food as often as possible, drink filtered water, and use natural personal care and home cleaning products. An excellent resource for identifying the toxicity of various products is the Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database provided by the Environmental Working Group.

As you’ll see in the EWG’s database, Miessence is an excellent line of high quality personal care products that have the rare distinction of being certified organic according to food grade standards.

In regard to omega-3 fatty acid consumption, stick with the sources that don’t cause any problems. While whole food sources such as walnuts, grass fed beef and ground flax seed are always preferable, processed sources such as flax seed oil and olive oil are also reasonable choices.

Finally, if you continue to experience sensitivities to supplements and foods, you may want to consider being tested for food sensitivities.

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