Taking GABA for Sleep: The Science Behind It and If It Really Works

Hallie Gould
·3 min read

Sleep is very, very important to us. Our busy lives (and technology addiction) cause seemingly perennial exhaustion—making the little time we allow for sleep imperative to maintaining sanity. Our interest in a good night's rest knows no end, creating intrigue around subjects like the best temperature for sleep, our sleep position, essential oils that help come bedtime, and the best calming beauty products. We've even researched how to function on no sleep because, well, it happens.

Now, we're interested in GABA and its favorable effect on our sleeping schedules and occasional insomnia. Not sure what GABA is? Don't worry—we weren't either. Below, find the science-backed information we found most helpful.

Now Supplements GABA ($9)

It causes mental and physical relaxation.

GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) is a naturally occurring chemical compound produced in your brain, and, according to a recent study, helps to relax your body as well as your mind. "After 60 minutes of administration," the clinical trial's abstract reads, "GABA significantly increases alpha waves and decreases beta waves compared to water or L-theanine. These findings denote that GABA not only induces relaxation but also reduces anxiety."

Source Naturals GABA ($21)

Low levels of it may lead to stress and insomnia.

Studies have found GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Its levels are affected by poor diet, illness, age, and environmental toxins. Plus, an insufficient amount of GABA in your body can lead to anxiety, irritability, and sleep disorders like insomnia.

According to recent sleep studies, GABA levels are up to 30% lower in people suffering from insomnia. Similarly, GABA levels are also lower in patients with depression or mood disorders. (FYI: Experts let us in on the best vitamins for anxiety.)

Sleep aids support GABA but don't actually include the compound.

Popular sleep medications like Ambien and Lunesta work to increase GABA's effects by helping it better bind to your brain's receptors—but they don't contain any of the neurotransmitter itself, reports the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health's research-based site, Berkeley Wellness.

Moreover, "There's no credible evidence that taking GABA orally increases its levels in the brain—apparently, the compound can't pass from the blood to the brain (through the blood-brain barrier)." So, the medication that works with the compound is your best bet for insomnia relief.

WelleCo Sleep Welle Fortified Calming Tea ($69)

This sleep tea doesn't taste bad at all—it's got flavors of lemon balm, passionflower, and mango flower. It contains herbs like skullcap, valerian root, hops, and lemon balm to help you relax and encourage sleep.

NatureMade Melatonin ($9)

Take one of these melatonin tablets an hour before bed to help you fall asleep faster.

Ed. note: Please speak with a doctor before trying any new supplements or making major dietary adjustments.

Next up: From Sleep to Digestion: How to Use Tea to Solve (Almost) Everything

This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.

Other Sleep Aids

The Nue Co. Sleep Drops ($55)

Place six to 12 of these drops under your tongue, or add to a drink to consume 30 minutes before bedtime. The formula contains ingredients with restful qualities like valerian root and passionflower.

Sakara Life Sleep Tea ($20)

This herbal tea is a calming way to end the day thanks to chamomile and lavender.

Olly Sleep Melatonin Gummy ($17)

These blackberry-flavored gummies contain melatonin, L-theanine, and other botanical ingredients like chamomile and lemon balm.

Moon Juice Dream Dust ($38)

Add a teaspoon of this powder to tea, milk, or hot water if you're having trouble sleeping. It contains ashwagandha, jujube, polygala, chamomile, and schisandra to de-stress and relax.

This article originally appeared on The Thirty

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