Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid the body produces naturally and it’s an essential neurotransmitter that facilitates communication between our brain cells (1).
However, GABA’s biggest role is to reduce the activity of neurons in the brain and central nervous system, which has a wide range of effects on both mind and body. In fact, some general anesthetics bring about deep unconsciousness by enhancing GABA (2, 3, 4). Insufficient GABA in your body could result in anxiety, irritability, and sleep disorders.
Some benefits of GABA include:
- Better sleep
- Increased relaxation
- Stress reduction
- Greater calm and improved mood
- Pain relief
Besides improving sleep and inducing calm, GABA even stimulates natural growth hormone production (5).
GABA is not found naturally foods, but many varieties of tea and fermented foods like yogurt and kefir can help improve levels in the body. However, GABA is available as a supplement.
The Magic Bullet for Better Sleep?
GABA also plays many protective roles in the body.
It helps modulate your adrenal response to stress by controlling norepinephrine and epinephrine (responsible for surges of adrenaline) (6).
It regulates both activity and the regeneration of β-islet cells in the pancreas that are responsible for insulin production and regulating blood sugar levels (7). Any imbalances in this body-wide system can lead to significant sleep disturbances.
According to recent studies, GABA levels can be up to 30 percent lower in people dealing with insomnia. Low GABA levels are commonly found in patients experiencing mood disorders or depression.
In one 2018 study, test-subjects given 300 mg of GABA an hour before going to bed feel asleep faster than those who took a placebo (8). The GABA users also reported better sleep quality after one month of using the supplement.
GABA may be absorbed much more rapidly when wrapped in liposome technology (liposomes are a “lecithin” which is a fat that is essential in the cells of the body. When you wrap a nutrient, amino acid or hormone such as melatonin inside of a liposome, it engulfs and protects the nutrient as its quickly transported to the intestines where it is released for rapid absorption.) which may also greatly increase the amount absorbed too.
Reduces Stress and Improves Mental Performance
Another study from Japan analyzed the effects of a drink with either 25 or 50 mg of GABA on 30 participants. While both drinks were linked to reduced mental and physical fatigue during a problem-solving task, the beverage containing 50 mg was more effective (9).
A 2009 study finds that eating chocolate that contained 28 mg of GABA reduced stress in subjects performing problem-solving tasks (10). In another study, people who took 100 mg of GABA in capsule form reduced levels of stress in people completing mental tasks (11).
GABA levels are especially high in your amygdala, a part of the brain responsible for generating the fear response to danger. When we’re anxious, the fear response increases although there’s no real danger. GABA decreases this response in the amygdala to reduce anxiety (12).
Boosts Intelligence and Cognitive Ability
High levels of GABA have been linked to high intelligence and cognitive performance in a brain imaging study of healthy people (13).
This may be due to GABA’s inhibitory properties; it’s thought to suppress irrelevant information from our surroundings, which enhances focus and cognition (14). GABA also reduces distraction in the brain, which can improve reaction time, enabling us to make quicker decisions (15).
Could Improve High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can be a sign of ‘hyper-arousal’, a state of excessive physical alertness that makes it hard to fall asleep and sleep soundly. GABA supplements are frequently used by people looking for a natural way to lower their blood pressure.
Research finds strong evidence that GABA effectively works to reduce high blood pressure (16).
A study of individuals with borderline high blood pressure found that just 12 weeks of taking chlorella supplements (an algae rich in GABA), significantly reduced their blood pressure (17).
Besides the cardiovascular benefits of maintaining healthy blood pressure, it can also help to improve your sleep. The natural drop in blood pressure that occurs at night is an important part of our progression into sleep (18).
Natural Ways to Boost GABA Levels
Drinking alcohol can stimulate GABA receptors, leading to increased feelings of relaxation and sleepiness (19). Sleep-inducing drugs like Ambien also have the same effect (20).
But using these substances is only effective for a short time, and can have unhealthy side effects.
Early research suggests that some herbal supplements, like valerian root, could help raise GABA levels in the brain. This may be because they promote GABA production or slow its breakdown (21).
Also, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry finds that inhaling the scent of jasmine may help enhance GABA’s effects (22).
The Sandman Difference
If you are looking to get the best nights rest you have ever experienced look no further than our revolutionary and 100% natural sleep aid, Sandman!
We wrapped 100 mg of GABA in our industry leading liposomal technology to help you go to sleep faster, sleep harder, and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start your day.
Our formulation also includes:
- Melatonin – helps control your daily sleep-wake cycles
- L-theanine – helps increase relaxation and lower stress
- Glutathione – “Master Antioxidant” reduces oxidative stress on the body
- Wu C, Sun D. GABA receptors in brain development, function, and injury. Metab Brain Dis. 2015;30(2):367–379. doi:10.1007/s11011-014-9560-1 – Link
- Barker-Haliski M, White HS. Glutamatergic Mechanisms Associated with Seizures and Epilepsy. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2015;5(8):a022863. Published 2015 Jun 22. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a022863 – Link
- Michael N, Erfurth A, Ohrmann P, Gössling M, Arolt V, Heindel W, Pfleiderer B. Acute mania is accompanied by elevated glutamate/glutamine levels within the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2003 Jul;168(3):344-6. Epub 2003 Apr 9 – Link
- Brown EN, Lydic R, Schiff ND. General anesthesia, sleep, and coma. N Engl J Med. 2010;363(27):2638–2650. doi:10.1056/NEJMra0808281 – Link
- Michael Powers, et al. Growth Hormone Isoform Responses to GABA Ingestion at Rest and after Exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 40(1):104-110, JAN 2008 – Link
- Sirivelu MP, Burnett R, Shin AC, Kim C, MohanKumar PS, MohanKumar SM. Interaction between GABA and norepinephrine in interleukin-1beta-induced suppression of the luteinizing hormone surge. Brain Res. 2009;1248:107–114. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2008.10.057 – Link
- Soltani N, Qiu H, Aleksic M, et al. GABA exerts protective and regenerative effects on islet beta cells and reverses diabetes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011;108(28):11692–11697. doi:10.1073/pnas.1102715108 – Link
- Byun JI, Shin YY, Chung SE, Shin WC. Safety and Efficacy of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid from Fermented Rice Germ in Patients with Insomnia Symptoms: A Randomized, Double-Blind Trial. J Clin Neurol. 2018;14(3):291–295. doi:10.3988/jcn.2018.14.3.291 – Link
- Tsutomu KANEHIRA, Yoshiko NAKAMURA, Kenji NAKAMURA, Kenji HORIE, Noriko HORIE, Kaori FURUGORI, Yusuke SAUCHI, Hidehiko YOKOGOSHI, Relieving Occupational Fatigue by Consumption of a Beverage Containing γ-Amino Butyric Acid, Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, 2011, Volume 57, Issue 1, Pages 9-15 – Link
- H. Nakamura, T. Takishima, T. Kometani & H. Yokogoshi (2009) Psychological stress-reducing effect of chocolate enriched with γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in humans: assessment of stress using heart rate variability and salivary chromogranin A, International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 60:sup5, 106-113 – Link
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- Emily Cook, et al. GABA predicts visual intelligence. Neuroscience Letters Volume 632, 6 October 2016, Pages 50-54 – Link
- Sumner P, Edden RA, Bompas A, Evans CJ, Singh KD. More GABA, less distraction: a neurochemical predictor of motor decision speed. Nat Neurosci. 2010 Jul;13(7):825-7. doi: 10.1038/nn.2559. Epub 2010 May 30 – Link
- Shimada M, et al. Anti-hypertensive effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-rich Chlorella on high-normal blood pressure and borderline hypertension in placebo-controlled double blind study. Clin Exp Hypertens. 2009 Jun;31(4):342-54 – Link
- Ma P, Li T, Ji F, Wang H, Pang J. Effect of GABA on blood pressure and blood dynamics of anesthetic rats. Int J Clin Exp Med. 2015;8(8):14296–14302. Published 2015 Aug 15 – Link
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- O. A. Sergeeva, O. Kletke, A. Kragler, A. Poppek, W. Fleischer, S. R. Schubring, B. Goerg, H. L. Haas, X.-R. Zhu, H. Luebbert, G. Gisselmann, H. Hatt. Fragrant dioxane derivatives identify 1 subunit-containing GABAA receptors.. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2010 – Link