Your brain is a complex, beautiful, biological machine packed with roughly 100 billion nerve cells that are all firing 5-50 times every single second. It’s difficult to fathom the processing power packed inside our heads, but the most accurate simulation of the human brain to date (conducted by one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers), demonstrated the mind-blowing magnitude. “The computer had 705,024 processor cores and 1.4 million GB of RAM,” wrote Matthew Sparks for The Telegraph. “But it still took 40 minutes to crunch the data for just one second of brain activity.”
With such complex and rapid activity, it’s no wonder that any kink in the system will quickly result in palpable dysfunction.
Relaying all that information are chemical messengers called “neurotransmitters” – and the two most common are the amino acids glutamate (which stimulates brain activity) and gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA (which inhibits activity).
Right now, let’s focus on just one small snippet of our cranial computer’s functioning: GABA, sleep, and anxiety.
“Without enough GABA, your nerve cells fire too often and too easily,” says Dr. Rena Bloom of the Denver Naturopathic Clinic. “GABA hinders the transmission of nerve impulses from one neuron to another. It has a calming or quieting influence. A good example to help understand this effect is caffeine. Caffeine inhibits GABA release. The less GABA, the more nerve transmissions occur. Think what too much coffee feels like: that is the sensation of glutamate without enough GABA.”
Can GABA supplements help?
GABA supplements, either alone or combined with other ingredients, are marketed widely for helping treat anxiety and insomnia, but how effective and how exactly they exert their effects in the human body is still unclear. Some studies indicate that GABA taken orally is unable to pass through the blood-brain barrier in significant amounts, others find it can. Additionally, an increasing body of research is uncovering how GABA functions in the body outside of the brain.
Even though we don’t exactly understand how it works, GABA has indeed been found to be helpful for sleep and anxiety. Here’s a very small sampling of the research:
- A 2012 study conducted by Yoto et al. found that GABA alleviated stress.
- A 2002 study by Abdou et al. found it induced relaxation and also reduced anxiety.
- A 2016 study by Yamatsu et al. found it helped participants fall asleep faster and increased the quality of sleep.
- Also, pairing GABA with other substances has been found to be effective. In another recent study, GABA was paired with 5-HTP and was found to help with both sleep duration and quality.
Is GABA right for you? “Probably the only way you will figure out if GABA works for you is to try it,” says Dr. Bloom. “GABA is nontoxic and appears generally safe to take.”
Interested in trying GABA in a formula optimized for effectiveness? Sign up for a free trial of the Klova ZPatch that contains a blend of natural ingredients like GABA, 5-HTP, melatonin, hops, and valerian root to help promote relaxation and a better night’s rest.
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