GABA For A More Restful Sleep
Getting enough sleep is as important to our health as getting enough nutrients and oxygen. Studies have shown time and again that sleep plays a vital role in immune function, memory, learning, mental health, and even the physical repair of the body.
Even if we don’t understand all the science behind it, we know what lack of sleep feels like: terrible. Poor sleep contributes to many health consequences such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, as well as an impaired sense of well-being and productivity. Sometimes, even after implementing good “sleep hygiene” habits, such as a dark, cool, quiet room, no screens close to bedtime, and no caffeine later in the day, sleep can still be elusive. Our body can benefit from certain minerals, herbs, and foods that help us ease into sleep and stay there. Let’s take a look at some of the “heavy hitters” in the sleep aid category.
Gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA, is an amino acid produced naturally in the brain. It is specifically an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means that it lowers the activity of the neurons in the brain and the central nervous system. In this way, GABA serves to reduce feelings of stress, promote relaxation and a sense of calm, alleviate pain, and encourage sleep.
Certain foods contain GABA or support the production and function of GABA in the body. Fermented foods such as kefir, tempeh, kombucha, yogurt, and kimchi contain bacteria which can boost GABA levels. Other GABA-supportive foods include beans and lentils, cruciferous vegetables, nuts and seeds, fish, and some varieties of black or green teas.
There are also many herbs which have been shown to activate GABA receptors in the brain. Valerian, skullcap, passionflower, ashwagandha, and lemon balm and are helpful for sleep disorders specifically because of their impact on GABA function.
Finally, GABA can also been taken directly in supplement form. While there is still some question about the absorption of GABA when ingested, it can still have positive impact when taken consistently over time.