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Higher maternal plasma docosahexaenoic acid during pregnancy is associated with more mature neonatal sleep-state patterning.

Cheruku SR, Montgomery-Downs HE, Farkas SL, Thoman EB, Lammi-Keefe CJ. (2002) Am J Clin Nutr. 76(3) 608-13. 

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The effect of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on the developing fetal central nervous system (CNS) and related functional outcomes in infancy remain unexplored. Sleep and wake states of newborns provide a tool for assessing the functional integrity of the CNS.


We investigated whether CNS integrity in newborns, measured with sleep recordings, was associated with maternal concentrations of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially DHA.


Plasma phospholipid fatty acid concentrations were measured in 17 women at parturition. On postpartum day 1 (P1) and day 2 (P2), a pressure-sensitive pad under the infants' bedding recorded body movements and respiratory patterns to measure sleep and wake states.


Maternal plasma phospholipid DHA ranged from 1.91% to 4.5% by wt of total fatty acids. On the basis of previously published data and the median DHA concentration, the women were divided into 2 groups: high DHA (> 3.0% by wt of total fatty acids) and low DHA (</= 3.0% by wt of total fatty acids). Infants of high-DHA mothers had a significantly lower ratio of active sleep (AS) to quiet sleep (QS) and less AS than did infants of low-DHA mothers. Furthermore, the former infants had less sleep-wake transition and more wakefulness on P2. Correlations of maternal DHA status with infant sleep states were consistent with these data. Also, the ratio of maternal n-6 to n-3 fatty acids on P1 was inversely associated with QS and positively associated with arousals in QS. On P2, maternal n-6:n-3 was positively associated with AS, sleep-wake transition, and AS:QS.


The sleep patterns of infants born to mothers with higher plasma phospholipid DHA suggest greater CNS maturity.

Comment in
Sleep patterns, docosahexaenoic acid, and gestational length. [Am J Clin Nutr. 2004