Remember when you were young and the last thing you remembered when you woke up was right before you went to sleep? You were unconscious the entire night. No rolling over in bed to get comfortable. No getting up to go to the bathroom. No waking up from every little noise. Just pure, unadulterated sleep. How good was that!
For many of us as we get older, that kind of sleep has become a distant memory. One of the most common questions I get from my patients is how can I get better sleep. A recent study is showing what might be just the kind of help some of us need.
The researchers specifically looked at two nutritional substances and their effect on sleep. One was gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA for short. The other one was 5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP for short.
GABA is a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that has a calming effect on the brain and nervous system. Probably all of us know that being excited, upset, or just having a lot on our minds before going to bed is going to be a problem. GABA's job is to calm us down in preparation for sleep. But just like everything else, as we get older, GABA does not work as well. And that's one of the reasons sleep can be restless.
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5-HTP is a substance that gets converted into the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is one of the most important neurotransmitters for regulating the sleep/wake cycle. Serotonin levels also decline with age. And when serotonin levels are not normal, sleep disturbances are often the result.
The researchers looked at three aspects of sleep. One was sleep latency. Sleep latency refers to how long it takes to fall asleep. Normal sleep latency is in the order of 5-10 minutes. Another measurement they looked at was how long the sleep period lasted before waking up. And the last parameter was sleep quality. This refers to how deep the sleep was. When we were kids, we fell asleep in five minutes, slept for 8-10 hours, and slept so deep almost nothing would wake us up. We had all these parameters dialed in. Here's what the study discovered.
When they gave GABA combined with 5-HTP, all three parameters significantly improved. However, when they gave them separately, the results were not nearly as good. The two substances worked together to improve every measurement of sleep. The other important discovery was that the long-term use of the supplements increased the GABA effect on the nervous system by 37%. So the likelihood is good that as you take these supplements over time, your sleep will continue to improve.
If you're plagued with sleep issues, especially if you tend to be high strung, tense, worried, or over-excited, give this combination a try. You might not only find you sleep better, but you may also find you're calmer even during the day. Advanced Bionutritionals makes Advanced Sleep Formula
, which contains both GABA and 5-HTP. And maybe that's a big reason why many of my patients tell me that it works great for them. This product also contains theanine. Theanine is commonly found in foods and has a positive effect on GABA function. Try taking three tablets about 45 minutes before you go to bed for 30 days and see if you are sleeping better.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Hong KB, Park Y, et al. Sleep-promoting effects of the GABA/5-HTP mixture in vertebrate models. Behav Brain Res. 2016 Sep 1;310:36-41.