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Can't Fall Asleep? THIS Might Be Why

2003-10-01 18:18:26

If you suffer from insomnia and have a mood problem, it may be because your brain doesn't secrete enough of a certain chemical. You're not alone. People who have anxiety disorders are also more likely to have sleep problems.

Turns out, there's a reason for this. Both could be the result of too little GABA in the brain, a chemical that helps neutralize the effects of another brain chemical called glutamate that causes excitement. If there isn't enough GABA, it causes those racing thoughts that characterize anxiety, which in turn keep you up at night, according to new research from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

GABA is essential to slow down the brain's activity so you can fall asleep. Now that scientists know that too little GABA could be the cause of insomnia and anxiety disorders, they are developing new drugs that will stimulate the brain to produce GABA. The good news is that this one drug will allow both the mind and body to slow down and rest, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lead study author Karl Doghramji, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, told the American Medical Association's annual Science Reporters Conference that GABA deficiencies interfere with the most important stage of sleep--the deep sleep that begins about 45 minutes after you fall asleep. He noted that previous studies have shown that people who suffer from depression, anxiety, and other types of mood disorders are usually deficient in this deep sleep, which is also called delta sleep.

Here's the catch-22: The longer you suffer from sleep problems that are caused by GABA deficiency continue, the greater chance it will affect your emotional health.

Don't try to self-medicate. Although GABA supplements are commonly available as over-the-counter insomnia remedies, Doghramji cautions against using them since they are not regulated. Also, it's not known how much GABA they contain or whether the product is pure.

Meanwhile, Doghramji recommends behavioral changes to battle insomnia:

Exercise regularly in the afternoon. Establish a regular sleeping schedule and stick with it seven days a week. Avoid taking naps. Only drink caffeinated beverages before noon. Do not have alcohol with dinner.

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