Can GABA Help Me Sleep Better?
In the United States, approximately 1 in 3 adults do not get enough sleep (“not enough” is defined by the CDC as less than 7 hours per night) . Does this sound like you? Are you fed up with constantly feeling fatigued because you’re not sleeping well?
If so, GABA (short for gamma-aminobutyric acid) may be a helpful addition to your supplement regimen to help you sleep more soundly, given its chemical structure, role in the brain, and resulting calming effects. Read on to learn everything you need to know about taking GABA for sleep and improved health.
What Is GABA?
GABA is an amino acid that naturally occurs in the brain .
GABA functions as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Inhibitory neurotransmitters block certain types of brain signals and decrease nervous system activity. GABA, specifically, produces calming effects when it attaches to the GABA receptors in the brain.
Benefits of GABA
There are lots of reasons to consider using GABA for sleep and for better health overall. The following are some of the greatest benefits it can offer:
Improved Sleep Quality
If you have a hard time falling or staying asleep at night, supplementing with some GABA may help.
The results of one study showed that taking 300 milligrams of GABA one hour before bedtime helped participants to fall asleep faster than those who took a placebo . The participants who took GABA also experienced improvements in their sleep quality.
Most GABA studies have been quite small. For example, the one mentioned above had just 40 participants.
It’s important to exercise caution when trying this supplement. However, the current research does seem promising, especially when it comes to improving sleep.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Because of GABA’s calming effects, it can be a useful tool for those who struggle with stress and anxiety, in the evening or at any time during the day.
One study looked at 13 adults and found that those who consumed GABA noticed significant reductions in anxiety . Within an hour of taking the supplement, researchers noticed that the participants had slower brainwaves, which is an indicator that their stress levels had gone down.
Another study involved administering 100 milligrams of GABA to people who had just performed a mentally stressful task. Those who took GABA experienced mental stress relief sooner than those who did not .
Reduced Blood Pressure
GABA may also help to lower blood pressure. One study followed folks with borderline high blood pressure for 12 weeks. The results showed that participants’ blood pressure was reduced significantly during this time .
It’s important to note, too, that a drop in blood pressure is an essential part of normal, healthy sleep patterns. It happens when the body transitions into a “rest and digest” state before bed. This may be another reason why GABA can help people who struggle with insomnia to sleep better.
Improved Cognitive Health
Some people swear by the effectiveness of GABA for improved cognition and focus, and small studies back it up, including one study that looked at 30 healthy adults. The results showed that 800 milligrams of GABA helped them to improve their ability to prioritize and plan when taking on difficult tasks .
It’s not exactly clear why GABA helps to improve focus and executive functioning skills. These results may have to do with its calming effects, though. After all, if you can feel calmer and more in control when tackling a difficult task, you’ll likely make fewer mistakes.
While these results are promising, it’s important to acknowledge that for all of these studies more research is needed to confirm these conclusions.
Because GABA supplementation is a relatively new practice, there’s not one ideal recommended dosage.
In one study, for example, participants took 20 milligrams of GABA twice per day, and in another, they consumed a solution that contained 10-12 milligrams . On the other hand, in the sleep study mentioned above, participants took 300 milligrams of GABA, and in the cognition study, they took 800.
There’s definitely a pretty big range of appropriate doses when it comes to GABA. As a general rule, if you have any questions about how much GABA to take or if it’s right for you, check in with your doctor .
Who Should Take GABA?
Lots of people can benefit from taking a GABA supplement. However, the following are some folks who might see the best results from including it in their routine:
- Those who struggle with insomnia or poor sleep quality
- Those who deal with a lot of stress or anxiety
- Those who want to experience improved cognitive function
If you are interested in trying out GABA, be sure to talk to your doctor first. They can factor in your unique medical history and ensure you’re not using any supplements that might not be ideal for you (or using them in inappropriate doses).
Who Shouldn’t Take GABA?
In general, GABA is considered to be a safe supplement with minimal side effects. It’s not a good choice for everyone, though, especially since it hasn’t been as thoroughly studied as many other products on the market.
Some people should exercise caution with this supplement and consult their doctor before using it, including these folks :
- Those who are pregnant
- Those who are breastfeeding
- Those who are taking blood pressure medications
If you’re taking any other medications, it’s particularly important to consult your doctor before using GABA. This will help you avoid any unsafe interactions.
How to Take GABA for Sleep
Do you want to use GABA for sleep and want to maximize its benefits? If so, here are some tips that will help:
- Choose a supplement type that works best for you and your preferences (do you want an easy-to-swallow pill? A powder that you can mix with drinks?)
- Start with the minimum dosage listed on your supplement label
- Take your supplement at the same time each day (an hour or so before bed is best if you’re using it for improved sleep)
Be sure to monitor your response to the GABA supplement. If you notice any reactions, stop taking it and talk to your doctor.
Other Ways to Increase GABA Intake
In addition to supplementing with GABA, you can also take a variety of steps to increase your body’s natural GABA production. Here are some practices you can implement today:
Adjust Your Diet
In order to produce greater amounts of GABA, the body requires vitamin B6. There are lots of different foods that are good sources of vitamin B6, including the following :
- Brussels sprouts
Fermented foods, including kimchi, sauerkraut, coconut water kefir, and miso are also good for increasing GABA. They contain beneficial bacteria strains like Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus Brevis, and Lactococcus lactis, all of which have been shown to support GABA production . You can also add in a pack of Hydrant Immunity to your water which has 11.02mg of B6 (650% of your Daily Value).
It’s time to get your “om” on. Practicing yoga can naturally increase the production of GABA in the brain, too.
A recent study from Boston University School of Medicine looked at 8 subjects before and after a one-hour yoga class and compared them to 11 subjects who did not practice yoga and instead read for one hour .
Using MRIs, the researchers found that those who practiced yoga had 27 percent higher levels of GABA, and those who read did not have any increases.
If you’re looking to increase your GABA production, consider taking up yoga, or perhaps another, similar mind-body practice like tai chi.
Not only will these practices boost this calming neurotransmitter, but these can also help you to manage stress and anxiety. Regular physical activity may improve your sleep quality, too, and help you focus more during the day.
As you can see, you’ll get many of the same benefits of GABA supplementation, even if you’re not taking anything extra.
Support Production with Supplements
Finally, there are certain supplements that may also help to boost GABA production. The following are some well-known options to consider:
- Magnesium: Magnesium is an essential macromineral that stimulates the GABA receptors; it also supports healthy hydration and can reduce muscle cramps 
- L-theanine: L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea known for promoting calmness and improving focus. We mix it in our Energy mixes for smooth energy 
- Taurine: Taurine is another amino acid naturally present in the human body that helps you to feel calmer; it’s often included in energy drinks to reduce jitters from caffeine 
As with GABA supplements, it’s important to talk to your doctor before using any of these other supplements.
Experience GABA Benefits Today
Are you interested in using GABA for sleep? If so, keep the tips listed above in mind. They’ll help you choose the right dosage and take steps to increase your body’s own GABA production so you can sleep well and wake up feeling great!