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In Primary Insomnia, a Brain Low on GABA Can’t Shut Down, Night or Day

  [ 16 votes ]   [ 1 Comment ]
www.ProHealth.com • June 9, 2009


“The recognition that primary insomnia is associated with a specific neurochemical deficiency helps validate the often misunderstood complaint of insomnia.” (And likely the anecdotal sleep support benefits of supplemental GABA.)

A research abstract* presented 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, providing greater insight to the limited understanding of the condition's pathology. (Primary insomnia is defined as "sleeplessness that cannot be attributed to an existing medical, psychiatric, or environmental cause such as drug abuse or medications.")

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, the recognition that primary insomnia is associated with a specific neurochemical deficiency helps validate the often misunderstood complaint of insomnia.

"Recognition that insomnia has manifestations in the brain may increase the legitimacy of those who have insomnia and report substantial daytime consequences," he said.

"Insomnia is not just a phenomenon observed at night, but has daytime consequences for energy, concentration and mood."

The study included 16 non-medicated individuals (eight of whom were women) with primary insomnia and 16 individuals (seven women) who were deemed normal sleepers. Global brain GABA levels were measured in both groups. primary insomnia was established through clinical interviews, sleep diary, actigraphy use and polysomnograpy.
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* Full text of the abstract (#0768) may be found on page 284 of the SLEEP conference Abstract Supplement - Title “Reduced brain GABA in primary insomnia: preliminary data from 4T proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS),” Winkelman J, et al.

Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine news release, Jun 9, 2009




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Article Comments Post a Comment

GABA and Theanine
Posted by: AllWXRider
Jun 20, 2009
My neurologist (2004) told me that GABA has difficulty in crossing the Blood-Brain-Barrier (BBB). More recently, it was found that L-Theanine helps GABA cross the BBB. Theanine is another amino acid derived mostly from Green Tea. I've used theanine in the past for anxiety and it was very effective, but I didn't take note of any sleep help as I was already on Ambien.
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