GABA is a funny neurotransmitter that our body naturally releases to calm us down and rest. Nowadays, you can also find GABA supplements that promote faster and deeper sleep. Here’s what research says about how complementary GABA affects sleep, what to know before taking it, and how to find your ideal dose.*
What is GABA?
Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter of the Human Brain. This non-protein-amino acid neurotransmitter compensates for excitatory neurotransmitters like glutamine to put the body in a calm state.*
Our brain is filled with GABA receptors. When these receptors are activated, they trigger a chain reaction that reduces neuronal inflammation and brain cell activity. “The interaction of GABA with its receptors increases the threshold for cells to become reactive. It relaxes the Cells and inhibits Reactivity, ” explains to the integration and Neurologist Ilene Ruhoy, M. D., Ph. D..
When this happens, our stress response subsides, our brain calms down, and we enter rest and relaxation mode. Playing sports, eating healthy and using relaxation techniques are all ways to naturally support a healthy level of GABA in the body. During periods when you want to activate this soothing reaction if necessary – for example, just before bedtime – you can also take a targeted source: additional GABA.*
While endogenous GABA (produced naturally) is more effective at activating inhibitory brain receptors, there is promising evidence that supplemental GABA can also cross the blood-brain barrier and contribute to a relaxation response, thus facilitating falling asleep and falling asleep.* However, as indicated in a systemic review in 2020, more research is needed, as there have been varying study designs and some with small sample sizes in clinical trials where GABA supplements and sleep have been tested.
GABA Benefits for Sleep.
Here’s what researchers have discovered so far about how GABA supplements might affect sleep:
1. It can help to relax the brain and relieve stress.
To study the effect of additional GABA on brain activity, Japanese researchers asked 13 people to drink clear water, water with PharmaGABA ® (100 mg), and water with L-theanine. (PharmaGABA ® is a brand-name version of GABA that has been well studied). They then waited 60 minutes and looked at their brains under an electroencephalogram (EEG). Over time, GABA had significantly increased its alpha waves (relaxing) and decreased its beta waves (stimulating) compared to water or L-theanine.*
In a follow—up study of the same study of eight people with vertigo, the team found that participants who took a GABA supplement could stay more relaxed—as shown by the Salivary IgA stress indicator than those who took a Placebo when crossing an elevated suspension bridge.*
2. It can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.
Separate studies conducted in Japan have shown that GABA, also in the form of PharmGABA ®, combined with Apocynum venetum leaf extract, a popular plant in traditional Chinese medicine, has beneficial effects on sleep.* The most significant influence was sleep latency or time to fall asleep, which was reduced by an average of 5.3 minutes.*
3. It can increase the time in REM sleep.
GABA not only helps us fall asleep a little faster but can also increase the time we spend in deep sleep.* A 2016 study showed that a PharmGABA ® supplement compared to a Placebo reduced sleep latency and extended time spent in REM sleep, an essential step for recovery and memory consolidation, according to an EEG-Scan. Follow-up questionnaires showed that these sleep improvements were significant enough to allow participants to feel the effects.*
This clinical trial also proved that GABA in complementary form was absorbed efficiently and quickly (peak in the blood at 30 minutes after ingestion).