Medically reviewed by
Dacelin St Martin, MD
Triple board-certified in Sleep Medicine,
Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.
Sleep is a bodily and mental state that generally lasts many hours every night, and is characterized by closed eyes, relaxed muscles, changed brain activity, and suspended awareness of the surroundings.
Behavioral and physiological criteria are used to categorize sleep into two states: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, which is further divided into three stages (N1, N2, and N3), and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, characterized by rapid eye movements, muscle atonia, and desynchronized EEG.
According to studies conducted over the past decade, sleep disturbances significantly impact the risk of contracting infectious diseases, the development and progression of a number of serious illnesses, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, and the likelihood of developing depression.
Therefore, sleep disturbances may seriously impact a patient’s health and quality of life. Most sleep problems can be effectively treated with suitable therapies, while some are more difficult to treat than others.
Pharmacological agents such as melatonin and GABA are used for better quality sleep. These are two of the most well-liked all-natural sleep aids.
GABA supports emotions and behavior by lowering excitability and encouraging relaxation and serenity, whereas melatonin only supports physical sleep by directly controlling the sleep-wake cycle.
Melatonin causes symptoms of drowsiness after awakening, which is an excellent reason to opt for other all-natural sleep aids like GABA.
What is GABA?
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, in the brain. It suppresses specific central nervous system signals by slowing down the brain and spinal cord function.
GABA is well known for having a relaxing effect. It’s believed to significantly affect regulating nerve cell hyperactivity linked to anxiety, stress, and terror.
GABA, also known as 4-aminobutyrate, is a non-protein amino acid. Through its action on GABA receptors, GABA serves in humans as the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system.
What are the Effects of GABA?
GABA is the body’s most significant inhibitory neurotransmitter, which reduces neural cell activity in the brain and central nervous system, putting the brain and body into a lower gear.
GABA helps with sleep, lessens stress on the body and mind, lowers anxiety, and promotes tranquility of the mind by blocking neuronal activity. GABA is crucial for controlling muscular tone, too.
GABA contributes significantly to the body’s overall homeostasis, or balance, along with glutamate, the most significant excitatory neurotransmitter in the body.
Also, GABA is a neurotransmitter that regulates appetite and metabolism, in addition to the immunological and endocrine systems of the body.
How Does GABA Affect Sleep?
The primary neurotransmitter controlling sleep is GABA. The majority of medications used to treat sleep disorders now work by improving GABA neural inhibition. Therefore, the GABA system has significant therapeutic implications for the treatment of insomnia.
GABA supplements’ calming action induces a state of relaxation in the mind whether taken on their own or with other natural sleep aids. GABA promotes sleep, lowers physical and mental stress, lowers anxiety, and promotes tranquility of mood by blocking neuronal activity.
How to Effectively Use GABA for Sleep?
1) Buy From Reputable Providers
There is a lack of standardization in the production of dietary supplements, and some products may be mislabeled or contain hidden ingredients that may cause health problems. It’s best to look for established, reputable manufacturers, which may include those that submit their products for independent quality testing.
2) Talk to a Medical Expert
A pharmacist or doctor may be able to respond to specific inquiries about various products, such as dosages of GABA supplements and the safety of combining GABA with other drugs or supplements.
3) Track Dosage and Results
It’s a good idea to keep a written record of a person’s prescription drugs and dietary supplements, including the dosage and frequency of use. A sleep diary can be utilized while experimenting with GABA supplements for sleep to record daily variations in sleep patterns and the presence of any adverse effects.
The GABA dosages suggested here are based on ranges studied in academic research. Generally speaking, it is advised to start with the lowest prescribed dose and gradually increase it as necessary.
One hundred to 200 mg of doses are typically advised when utilizing GABA to treat sleep disorders, stress, or anxiety based on various scientific research. Individual dose and usage duration do, however, still vary.
What are the Sleep Benefits of Using GABA?
GABA supplements facilitate sleep by assisting in the slowing of brain activity. Even though there have only been a few short studies, taking GABA supplements before bed can speed up the process of falling asleep.
GABA levels from supplements quickly fall in the body, which helps prevent the issues of morning grogginess and interrupted sleep stages that can arise with some prescription sleep aids.
Side Effects of GABA?
GABA pills seldom cause negative side effects. Patients have observed no significant adverse effects at levels typically encountered in sleep supplements.
Although using GABA supplements is typically not problematic, some people report headaches or stomach trouble. GABA supplements may briefly make you feel like your throat is burning at high doses.
GABA supplements may cause temporary drowsiness in some people, much like prescription sleeping medications can. Disorders of excessive daytime sleepiness and non-restorative sleep are also linked to an excess of GABA in the brain.
Most healthy people often tolerate oral GABA supplementation well. Adverse side effects could occur in some patients, including stomach discomfort, nausea, reduced appetite, constipation, an itching throat, sleepiness and exhaustion, muscle tremor, and breathlessness at very high doses.
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- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Are you considering a complementary health approach? National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/are-you-considering-a-complementary-health-approach