Depression & Insomnia: The GABA Connection.
Are you tired of counting sheep as you fight to untangle yourself from the webs of midnight thoughts, depression, and sleeplessness? If insomnia continues to bar your entry into dreamland, fear not. GABA might just be your means of reclaiming your ticket to tranquility and bidding farewell to risky medications and exhaustive sleepless nights.
GABA, or Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, is an endogenously produced neurotransmitter—a chemical messenger in the brain that helps regulate communication between nerve cells to promote a state of relaxation more conducive to sleep. It is derived from the amino acid glutamate and widely distributed in the brain to help maintain balance between excitatory and inhibitory neuron communication. For comparison, think of GABA as the Zen master or musical conductor for the brain, helping to regulate and reduce excessive stimulating activity and promote a sense of relaxation and tranquility.
Through this regulatory activity, it plays a crucial role in managing stress, depression, and anxiety, and is vital to promoting restful sleep. When GABA levels are balanced, it can contribute to a calm and focused mind, but imbalances may be associated with conditions like epilepsy, depression, and insomnia.1 In summary, GABA is like a conductor orchestrating peace in the brain's symphony of thoughts and emotions0
GABA and Depression
Your brain is like a bustling dance floor where neurotransmitters (the dancers) get down to the rhythm of your thoughts and emotions. When negative moods like depression flood the speakers, dancers are thrown into dissonant chaos, akin to initiating the Cha-Cha-Slide at a wedding when no one knows the moves! Fortunately, GABA, an experienced choreographer in this example, steps onto the dance floor and restores order to the dancers, bringing them together in balanced rhythm, calming the nervous system and slowing down the chaotic moves of mood-altering neurotransmitters.
For example, in depression, the delicate balance of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine (the dancers) becomes altered, leading to a restless mind (the dancefloor) that refuses to get in rhythm with tranquility.2 At this point GABA, the knowledgeable choreographer, waltzes in to counteract this chaos by restoring balance through the inhibition of dissonant signals, naturally restoring the brain to a state of balance more conducive to serene sleep.
Below are some ways GABA helps reduce depressive symptoms and enhances sleep:
Regulating Neuronal Firing3,4 - GABA works directly by regulating neuronal activity through inhibition of firing, which is important as certain areas of the brain tend to be overactive in people with depression. This alleviation of neuronal activity in these regions can prove particularly effective for reducing associated depression symptoms.
Interaction with Other Brain Messengers5,6 – GABA helps to regulate the balance of other neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, key players in mood regulation. When these are out of balance, depression is often manifested.
Regulation of Stress – GABA also plays a role in modulating the stress response, with its presence helping to lessen the impacts on the body. Chronic stress exposure is often associated with sleep difficulties and depression and GABA helps to mitigate this negative impact.
Sleep Regulation – Sleep disturbances are common in depression and this deprivation further exacerbates the issue. By lessening the noise in the brain, GABA helps promote better sleep and reduce the worsening and risks of depression.
Induces Relaxation and Calm – GABA acts as a natural sedative in the body by reducing feelings of agitation, anxiety, and stress to resist depression and promote sleep. This calming influence has an overall impact on mood, leading to improvements in depressive symptoms and better sleep at night.
GABA and Insomnia
People with depression induced insomnia often go to bed with a brain that won’t hush. They stare at the ceiling unable to ignore chatty Kathys in the brain that continue to converse even when the lights go out. For those wrestling with an overactive mind, this can be extremely distressing and make sleep an incredibly difficult task. This is where GABA steps in, muffling those hyperactive neurons (the chatty Kathys in the brain), encouraging them to dial down the volume so the brain can properly enter a rejuvenating sleep state.
However, conditions like depression often lead to a deficiency of GABA, leaving your brain susceptible to overactivity and insomnia. Fortunately, GABA supplements and lifestyle changes that boost GABA production can be the key to restoring these levels, converting your restless nights into restorative slumber parties.
Restoring GABA Naturally
For those with imbalances of GABA, as seen in depression and insomnia, supplementation may be incredibly helpful at restoring calm to the brain to reduce depression and induce restful sleep. Below represent natural sources of GABA for consideration to incorporate into your health regimen.
Green Tea7: Green tea contains theanine, an amino acid known for its calming effect on the brain as it promotes GABA production.
Yoga and Meditation8: Mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation help boost the brain’s production of GABA.
Regular Exercise9: Research has shown that regular aerobic exercise, like walking, cycling, and jogging, can increase GABA levels in the brain to help promote relaxation and sleep.
Avoid Caffeine10: Excessive caffeine intake can interfere with GABA receptors in the brain and reduce it’s effectiveness at inducing calm and subsequently sleep.
Probiotics, Yogurt, and Fermented Foods11: The probiotics found in foods like yogurt, tempeh, kimchi, and sauerkraut, help to maintain a healthy gut which is vital for proper GABA production in the brain.
Magnesium and Taurine Rich Foods12, 13: Magnesium is directly involved in the function of GABA receptors and is required for GABA to have an effect in the brain. Foods like leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are great sources of magnesium. Dr Zelenko’s Z-Night™ is another excellent source of magnesium.
Sprouted Grains14: Sprouted grains contribute to improvements in GABA levels as they have been shown to contain higher levels of GABA compared to non-sprouted alternatives.
Seaweed15: Certain types of seaweed including kombu a type of kelp, have been found to contain relatively high levels of GABA contributing to enhanced levels in the brain.
GABA Supplements: GABA supplements are available over the counter and can be a game-changer for those struggling to achieve calm and restful sleep.
Dr. Zelenko understood the power of GABA and as a result developed a sleep remedy called Z-Night™ that provides GABA formulated with a handful of other natural potent sleep molecules – L-tryptophan, magnesium, rutaecarpine, chamomile, hops, passion flower, and valerian root - to help restore GABA levels and promote sleep.
Cue the Lullaby: GABA in Action
As GABA makes it to the dance floor, the neurotransmitters begin slowing their dance to a soothing rhythm, forcing depression-induced insomnia to leave the floor and take a seat. With GABA your brain is better equipped to convert a chaotic dance party into a lullaby filled sanctuary suited for rejuvenating sleep.
Next time depression, anxiety, or a racing-mind tries to hijack your ticket to dreamland remember: GABA can be your key to restoring order and promoting restful, rejuvenating sleep and Dr. Zelenko makes getting GABA levels restored an easy undertaking with his effective sleep formula Z-Night™.
Experience Z-Night – a specially formulated sleep supplement created to work with Z-Stack.
Dr. Zelenko's promise was to support and strengthen your immune system. Z-Night – combined with Z-Stack – provides you the best fighting chance at building a more robust, resilient immune system.
Groeger, J. A, Hepsomali, P., Nishihira, J., & Scholey, A. (2021, September 17). Effects of Oral Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) Administration on Stress and Sleep in Humans: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.3389%2Ffnins.2020.00923
2. Hasler, G. (2010, October). Pathophysiology of Depression: Do We Have Any Solid Evidence of Interest to Clinicians?. World Psychiatry, 9(3): 155-161. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1002%2Fj.2051-5545.2010.tb00298.x
3. Duman, R. S., Krystal, J. H, & Sanacora, G. (2020, April 3). Altered connectivity in depression: GABA and glutamate neurotransmitter deficits and reversal by novel treatments. Neuron, 102(1): 75 – 90. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.neuron.2019.03.013
4. Touchstone, L. A. (2023, August 3). GABA receptors in brain could be targets to treat depression and its cognitive symptoms. University of Illinois: News Bureau. Retrieved from: https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/2003014918
5. Patel, A. B., Sarawagi, A., & Soni, N. D. (2021, April 27). Glutamate and GABA Homeostasis and Neurometabolism in Major Depressive Disorder. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.637863
6. Anisman, H., Merali, Z., & Poulte, M. O. (2012. The Neurobiological Basis of Suicide. CRC Press: Taylor & Francis. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK107210/
7. Han, S. H., & et al. (2019, February 1). GABA and L-theanine mixture decreases sleep latency and improves NREM sleep. Pharmaceutical Biology, 57(1): 65-73. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1080%2F13880209.2018.1557698
8. Hamblin, M., Krishnakumar, D., & Lakshmanan, S. (2015, April). Ancient Science, 2(1): 13-19. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.14259%2Fas.v2i1.171
9. Hendy, A. M., Smith, A. E., & Tempest, G. D. (2018, April 1). The importance of understanding the underlying physiology of exercise when designing exercise interventions for brain health. The Journal of Physiology, 596(7): 1131-1132. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1113%2FJP275756
10. Alasmari, F. (2020, April 28). Caffeine induce neurobehavioral effects through modulating neurotransmitters. Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal, 28(4): 445-451. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.jsps.2020.02.005
11. Chakrabarti, B., & et al. (2022, December 16). Gamma aminobutyric acid production by commercially available probiotic strains. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 134(2). Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1093/jambio/lxac066
12. Amessou, M., & et al. (2020, December). Magnesium Status and Stress: The Vicious Circle Concept Revisited. Nutrients, 12(12): 3672. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.3390%2Fnu12123672
13. Azam, S., & et al. (2019, June). Taurine and its analogs in neurological disorders: Focus on therapeutic potential and molecular mechanisms. Redox Biology, 24. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.redox.2019.101223
14. Benincasa, P., & et al. (2019, February). Sprouted Grains: A Comprehensive Review. Nutrients, 11(2): 421. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.3390%2Fnu11020421
15. Jang, D. U., & et al. (2010, March 11). Preparation of Gaba by fermentation of seaweed. World Intellectual Property Organization. Retrieved from: https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/c1/df/96/561965a19f0e8b/WO2010027117A1.pdf