What is GABA?
GABA, or Gamma-Aminobutyric acid, is an amino acid produced naturally in the brain. GABA functions as a neurotransmitter, facilitating communication among brain cells. GABA’s big role in the body is to reduce the activity of neurons in the brain and central nervous system, which in turn has a broad range of effects on the body and mind, including increased relaxation, reduced stress, a more calm, balanced mood, alleviation of pain, and a boost to sleep. Many medications interact with GABA and GABA receptors in the brain, altering their function to achieve certain effects, often relaxation, pain relief, stress and anxiety reduction, lowering blood pressure, and improving sleep. Barbiturates, anesthetics, benzodiazepines, anti-depressants and anti-seizure medications are some of the medications that target GABA. In addition, a number of natural supplements affect GABA activity, to help relieve stress and anxiety, promote a balanced mood, and help with slumber. Most of the natural supplements designed to affect GABA are based on amino acids.
GABA for Sleep
GABA is critical for getting shut-eye. When it’s released in the brain, it reduces excitability in nerve cells, calming the brain and allowing it to shift into sleep mode. A lack of GABA or a decrease in its production leads to difficulty winding down and falling asleep, as well as insomnia. Most sleep problems are caused by an imbalance in GABA activity in the brain, and if left unchecked, insomnia and its accompanying physical and mental problems can result. When it’s low, people struggle with falling asleep, staying asleep, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and grogginess upon waking. Taking GABA as a sleep aid helps restore balance to the body and brain, promoting calmness, relaxation, and improved quality of sleep.
There are supplements available containing pure GABA, which are taken orally for their calming, stress-reducing, and sleep-promoting effects. While you can buy pure GABA supplements, please be aware that very little research has been done to evaluate their potential effectiveness as sleep aids. There have not been any long-term safety studies, either, so it’s best to exercise caution and to discuss anything you want to take with your doctor first.
GABA Use is Increasing
While melatonin gets a lot of attention as a sleep aid, more and more people are experiencing the benefits of GABA in promoting more restful sleep. If you’re one of the millions of people who have trouble getting to sleep—or staying asleep throughout the night—GABA could be a promising natural sleep aid for you. Make sure to discuss it with your healthcare provider before you begin supplementing.
What Are the Benefits of Taking GABA for Sleep?
GABA has been known to help people reduce stress, relax, and fall asleep more easily and quickly. It can also help reduce overall wakefulness during the night, meaning that if you wake up in the middle of the night, GABA can help you quickly nod off again and get back to sleep. Additionally, it helps to regulate hormones and brain chemicals that regulate sleep, such as melatonin, cortisol, and serotonin. Finally, due to its calming properties, it can help to reduce stress and anxiety, which can often be underlying contributing factors to insomnia and other sleep disturbances.
Who Can Benefit From Taking GABA for Sleep?
Anyone who is having difficulty getting a full, restful night's sleep can benefit from taking GABA for sleep. GABA supplements can be particularly beneficial for those suffering from anxiety, stress, or depression; individuals with chronic pain; and those with disrupted sleep cycles, such as those who work night shifts. GABA is often specifically touted for its use in helping those who suffer from insomnia, but it can also be useful for those who need help quickly falling asleep as well as those who find themselves frequently waking up throughout the night.
How Can You Take GABA for Sleep?
There are a few ways in which you can take GABA supplements for optimal sleep. The first is to take the supplement at night, about an hour before bed. This will ensure the GABA has had enough time to get into your bloodstream and start promoting relaxation and optimal brain activity for better sleep. The second way is to take a larger dose at night and then maintain a lower dose throughout the day. This method may be helpful for those who have difficulty sleeping through the night, as the GABA may help to keep you relaxed throughout the night. Finally, there is a form of GABA that is administered topically, usually through a lotion, cream, or bath salts. This can be especially helpful for those who experience chronic pain, as it can provide added relaxation and help reduce inflammation.
Are There Any Negative Side Effects of Taking GABA for Sleep?
GABA supplements are generally considered safe for most adults, with few reported side effects. The most commonly reported side effects are headaches, fatigue, and nausea. Additionally, excessive use of GABA supplements could potentially lead to low blood pressure or increased sedative effects. It’s always best to discuss any supplement you are considering taking with your doctor prior to use. Be sure to check for drug interactions as well.
GABA is an amino acid that can be incredibly helpful when it comes to achieving quality, restful sleep. It helps reduce Excitability in the brain, promoting relaxation and aiding with better sleep. While there is still more research to be done to fully understand the benefits and safety of GABA supplements, many people have found them to be incredibly helpful in improving sleep. If you are looking for a natural sleep aid, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider before taking GABA to ensure it’s the right choice for you.