Natural sleeping aids such as dietary supplements have become popular as a way to give our bodies important nutrients that are lacking. Supplementation can be a great way to regulate quantities of hormones, chemicals, and amino acids in our bodies. One example is 5-HTP, which consists of an amino acid that is important for the chemical synthesis of serotonin. It isn’t found in much of the food we eat so, it makes sense to supplement in order to regulate serotonin levels in the body. Much like 5-HTP, GABA is another such naturally occurring amino acid that is available as a supplement as well.
What Is “GABA”?
GABA, also called gamma-aminobutyric acid, is an amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter to slow nerve activity within the brain. Basically, our central nervous system communicates various messages around the body and to the brain via nerve cells. GABA works to inhibit the nerve cells’ ability to create, receive, or send these messages to other nerve cells. GABA is actually the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in our central nervous system. While it is normally created in our brain cells, it is sold as a dietary supplement as well and externally created through natural fermentation. It is also found in many foods that we eat regularly. However, the key thing to remember is that cooking foods can drastically decrease GABA content through thermal decomposition. Foods rich in glutamic acid are a natural source of GABA. Spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, fermented foods (such as kimchi and yogurt), citrus fruits and whole grains are all wonderful options for natural sources of GABA.
What Does “GABA” Do?
Compared to supplements like melatonin and 5-HTP, there is much less research available on GABA. However, research has been clear on the following:
- One of the biggest roles that GABA plays is its part in releasing the human growth hormone by stimulating the pituitary gland. The human growth hormone is an important factor in the healthy growth of children. It regulates fat metabolism, muscle and body composition, and bone development as well. It also plays a huge role in weight loss when it increases the body’s rate of metabolism. This allows fat to burn as the muscles are able to perform efficiently.
- GABA has somewhat similar effects as 5-HTP in terms of stress and mood regulation. It slows the effects of stress (i.e., stress headaches) thereby regulating mood as well. This has shown positive effects on depression and anxiety.
- Some new research shows that taking GABA alongside 5-HTP not only improves sleep quality but increases sleeping time too. This is an interesting finding as GABA has a strong correlation with sleep.
GABA and Sleep:
Falling levels of GABA in the body can lead to several neurological and mental health conditions. A low level of GABA is a known contributor to muscle pains and headaches. These are known as physical signs of deficiency. There are many other physical as well as emotional signs of GABA deficiency. Epilepsy as well as anxiety and major depressive disorder have often been linked to the deficiency. One study showed a sample of individuals with Parkinson’s disease and anxiety disorders had lower than normal amounts of GABA. One of the strongest effects of the deficiency is on your sleep. Sleep difficulties and difficulty concentrating are signs of the deficiency.
Many of the commonly found prescription barbiturates such as Xanax and valium are actually GABA activators. These are normally prescribed for severe anxiety issues and other mental health conditions. They work by reducing levels of stress and anxiety to create a sense of calm in your body. This allows for a peaceful night’s sleep and an assurance that you will remain asleep throughout the night.
GABA Supplements: Implications of Excess
While the usual recommended dose for GABA supplements is two times a day, it is important to always remember to consult a health professional and read the label thoroughly before purchasing any supplement form. The excessive use of any supplement or medication can pose detrimental consequences.
- It is strongly advised that if you are pregnant or if you have kidney disease to not take GABA supplements.
- Recent research has found that GABA can pass through the blood-brain barrier much like 5-HTP. Some substances that can affect GABA’s pathway to the brain can alter its effects too. Barbiturates and alcohol are two such examples. Barbiturates can especially spike GABA levels if taken in combination with GABA supplements since they activate GABA activators within the body. This can cause an extremely high level of GABA in your system leading to a spike in anxiety, tingling sensations in the extremities of your body, light-headedness, drowsiness, and/or numbness.
- Use with caution if you are taking GABA supplements in combination with blood pressure medication. Consult your healthcare provider before purchasing any supplements.
- Excessive amounts of GABA in your body can lead to a condition known as hypersomnia. This is when you have trouble staying awake during the day even if you had an adequate amount of sleep the night prior. You may have trouble concentrating, or feel drowsy and light-headed due to GABA’s strong effects on sleep.
While mostly sold as a dietary supplement, GABA has a strong effect on sleep as well. It has been known to work positively with other sleep vitamins. And, because it is a naturally occurring compound that is also produced within our brain cells, it is often compared with other supplements like 5-HTP and melatonin. Research continues into this new and exciting supplement for sleep but early results are promising.
Can-i Wellness for Rest and Sleep
As a leading wellness company that produces high-quality, third-party lab-tested products, Can-i Wellness’ four unique experiences are precisely created to fulfill the demands of both athletes and health enthusiasts. Combining vitamins, nutraceuticals, and herbal extracts into their offerings, the products are designed to function together to provide the best experience possible, resulting in optimal health benefits.
If you are in search of natural sleep aid alternatives, Can-i Sleep sleep solutions contain ingredients such as melatonin, GABA, lavender flower, and much more as a means of helping you fall asleep and stay asleep. By taking Can-i Sleep when it’s time to go to bed, you’ll be able to wake up refreshed, restored and perfectly well rested.