The Holistic Ingredient That Can Help You Achieve Deeper Sleep

By now, you've probably heard about the importance of a good night's sleep. According to the American Sleep Association, sleep is critical for good health, and if you don't get enough of it, your body may suffer. Getting less than six hours of sleep per night for an extended amount of time might shorten your life, weaken your immune system, and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Thankfully, our brains have evolved to transition into sleep mode through a series of physiological changes that occur in the evening, per MindBodyGreen. Those changes include a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and a reduced body temperature. Another change that happens is the release of certain chemicals that help our bodies feel "sleepy." One of those is the hormone melatonin, which is released as it gets dark outside (via the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health). However, another less-talked-about chemical is an amino acid called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA.

GABA helps your body relax

GABA is a neurotransmitter your body produces that slows down activity in your brain, creating a calming effect, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This effect can result in feeling less stress, and that can lead to better sleep. A small study published in the ​Journal of Clinical Neurology​ in 2018 showed that GABA may help people with insomnia. GABA is found in several foods, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms, peas, tomatoes, chestnuts, sweet potatoes, white tea, and fermented foods. Large amounts are found in spinach, sprouted grains, and brown rice, per Livestrong. You can also find supplements that contain GABA. 

It is important to note that some experts do not think that much of the GABA consumed in food or supplement form enters the brain. A 2015 review published in the journal ​Frontiers in Psychology​ explained that more research was needed to explore the topic. If you're looking to improve your sleep, it won't hurt to ask your doctor about using GABA supplements to see if they can help.