Want Better Sleep? Make Sure You're Getting Enough Of This Superstar Amino Acid
When you think about all the ways to improve sleep, you probably think about going to bed earlier, limiting caffeine, or putting your phone away a bit before bed. But there's another little-known secret weapon that can help get you get a great night's rest: GABA, a nonprotein amino acid neurotransmitter. Here's what to know about GABA, from how it affects sleep to how to make sure you're getting it.
How does GABA support quality sleep?
GABA is the body's primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, which basically just means it dampens certain signals in the central nervous system to help keep you feeling nice and balanced mentally and physically.* We get the calming benefits of GABA when it binds to GABA receptors (mainly GABA-A and GABA-B receptors) in the brain.
Science tells us that GABA-A receptors are highly expressed in the thalamus1, which is a brain region that's involved in sleep. This means that GABA enables the body and mind to relax so you can slip into a snooze faster, board-certified sleep specialist Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., previously explained to mbg.*
"When your body produces [GABA], your central nervous system slows down, which makes a person feel more relaxed and, in many cases, sleepy. In fact, most of the current sleep aids support normal GABA levels in the brain,"* Breus says.
In fact, one study in the journal Sleep2 found that people with trouble falling asleep had GABA levels almost 30% lower than those who did not have trouble sleeping. An additional study from 20183 also showed that participants who took PharmaGABA® (a branded version of GABA that's been well studied) before bed fell asleep faster and had better-quality sleep after just a week of supplementation.*
It's no wonder mbg's vice president of scientific affairs, Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, says the GABA bioactive is like a capsule form of nightly meditative breathwork that will help one ease into a chillaxed slumber.*
How to get it
So, how does one actually up their supply of this relaxing amino acid neurotransmitter? It's present in certain foods, though for the sleep-promoting benefits, it's a good idea to supplement with it for a targeted dose.* Enter: mbg's pioneering sleep formula, sleep support+.
The supplement blends PharmaGABA® with relaxing jujube, as well as magnesium bisglycinate. It's a thoughtful pairing that maximizes the natural benefits of each ingredient. As allergist and immunologist Heather Moday, M.D., previously wrote for mbg, "One of the most impactful roles of magnesium when it comes to sleep is its relationship with GABA." Magnesium activates GABA receptors in the brain, she explains, and when we have adequate levels of GABA in the brain, "not only do we fall asleep faster, but we also reach deep stages of sleep more readily."*
Put it all together and sleep support+ is a powerhouse supplement with ingredients proven to promote an overall state of relaxation and enhance sleep quality.*
Whether you sleep like a baby every night or are more of a toss-and-turner, you can probably up your sleep game with a quality supplement. And understanding what we know about GABA, you'll want to make sure it's included in your sleepytime formula.*
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.