June 09, 2009
GABA Neurotransmitter Shortage Causes Insomnia?

People with insomnia have a lower level of the neurotransmitter GABA.

WESTCHESTER, Ill. A research abstract that will be presented on Tuesday, June 9, at SLEEP 2009, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, is the first demonstration of a specific neurochemical abnormality in adults with primary insomnia (PI), providing greater insight to the limited understanding of the condition's pathology.

Results indicate that gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the most common inhibitory transmitter in the brain, is reduced by nearly 30 percent in individuals who suffer from primary insomnia for more than six months. These findings suggest that primary insomnia is a manifestation of a neurobiological state of hyperarousal, which is present during both waking and sleep at physiological and cognitive levels.

According to principal investigator Dr. John Winkelman of Brigham and Women's Hospital, at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass., the recognition that primary insomnia is associated with a specific neurochemical deficiency helps validate the often misunderstood complaint of insomnia.

Any good GABA booster drugs worth trying by insomniacs? GABA agonist drugs exist. But maybe foods that provide precursors to GABA are a safer bet. L glutamic acid is a precursor to GABA. But l-glutamic acid is pretty plentiful in a meat-rich diet. Lower GABA in the brain could be due to a regulatory mechanism keeping it lower. So higher dietary precursors might not help.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 June 09 09:56 PM  Brain Sleep

Kudzu Bob said at June 10, 2009 4:20 PM:

Why resort to such indirect means as GABA precursors? Why not take GABA itself? It's available in health food stores, and in fact can often be found as one of several ingredients in quite a few supplement formulas that target sleep as well as anxiety.

Eric said at June 10, 2009 5:54 PM:

Because it is not sure to cross the BBB.

Randall Parker said at June 10, 2009 6:06 PM:

Kudzu Bob,

What Eric said. But even more so: I came across one paper describing different transport of existing and newly synthesized GABA. I got the impression when GABA is first synthesized some transport protein gets a hold of it and moves it places where other GABA doesn't get moved because other GABA isn't where that transport protein is. I thought about linking to the paper but thought it too technical for most readers.

Kudzu Bob said at June 10, 2009 9:28 PM:

Thanks for the info!

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