GABA (?-Aminobutyric acid) intake—in the form of Japan-based Pharma Foods International Co Ltd’s PharmaGABA—resulted in users experiencing a greater length of deep (non-REM) sleep, according to a study released by Pharma Foods International. GABA is a naturally-occurring amino acid and inhibitory neurotransmitter.

Pharma Foods International, manufacturer of and supplying partner of Mitsubishi International Food Ingredients Inc, is publishing the results of a 2014 crossover-based, single-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled trial series that reveals the relationship between GABA and both the time it takes to achieve sleep and the length of non-REM sleep.

The study shows that subjects administered PharmaGABA:

  • Fell asleep more quickly and easily, and more rapidly moved to a state of deep sleep.
  • Experienced greater length of valuable non-REM sleep.
  • Upon awakening consistently reported a qualitatively better and more satisfying sleep experience.

Pharma Foods International says what makes this study noteworthy is the effects of GABA could be examined solely, isolated from any other factors that might affect sleep quality.

For the trials, 6 men and 4 women, average age of 37.7, who’d tested for a high probability of sleep disorder according to the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), were regularly administered 112 mg of PharmaGABA, the equivalent of a full 100 mg of pure GABA, over a period of three weeks. The first and third weeks were active, while the second served as a “wash-out” period. Brain wave activity was monitored using electroencephalography (EEG).

It was observed that in the GABA control group sleep latency was greatly reduced. Further, the successive deep, non-REM stage of sleep was notably, consistently lengthened.

In addition, blood was analyzed to determine GABA’s rate of absorption, and it was found that GABA was absorbed within 30 minutes of being administered and trace levels dropped off precipitously soon after. This draws a distinct line between the activity of GABA, which metabolizes fully over a very short time, and of sleeping formulations, including prescription and non-prescription sleep aids, which linger in the blood long after rising, resulting in a qualitative decline in cognitive and physical condition. Subjects reported feeling refreshed and alert upon rising after the use of GABA.

Although GABA is found in a range of foods and can be obtained through everyday diet, certain fermented foods particularly popular in East Asia (such as the Korean kimchi) hold especially high concentrations. Pharma Foods International says it has developed a proprietary process of deriving GABA from the fermentation of lactobacillus and produces a product of over 80% purity.