How Long Does GABA Need To Work?

In this article, we will provide a brief overview of what GABA is, its role in the body, and the scientific evidence that supports its use for sleep. We will also explore the timeline for its effectiveness, factors that can affect its efficacy, and potential risks and side effects associated with GABA supplements.

There are two main reasons that people look to take GABA and we’ll look at how long it takes to have an impact on sleep and how long GABA takes to work for anxiety.

What Is GABA & How Does It Work?

GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid) is a neurotransmitter that works by binding to specific receptors in the brain. These receptors are known as GABA-A and GABA-B receptors. When GABA binds to these receptors, it triggers the opening of ion channels in the neurons, which ultimately leads to the inhibition of nerve impulses. This inhibitory effect makes GABA an important regulator of brain activity and is the reason why it is often associated with feelings of calmness and relaxation.

These receptors are distributed in the brain regions that are responsible for controlling mood, sleep, and anxiety. GABA's calming effects are mediated by its ability to decrease neuronal excitability in these regions, thereby promoting relaxation, reducing anxiety, and improving sleep quality. GABA's effectiveness, therefore, depends on the individual's body chemistry, stress levels, genetics, and metabolism.

Taking GABA supplements can increase GABA levels in the brain, leading to enhanced feelings of calmness and relaxation. The supplements are typically produced synthetically from glutamic acid or glutamate, which is an amino acid that can be found in certain foods such as meat, fish, and dairy products. In the brain, glutamic acid is converted to GABA by an enzyme known as glutamic acid decarboxylase.

Like GABA, other neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, also play a crucial role in regulating brain activity and are implicated in mood regulation, sleep, and anxiety [1]. These neurotransmitters work by binding to specific receptors and activating them, similar to how GABA works. However, the balance between these neurotransmitters varies in individuals, and their effect on the brain varies depending on the specific receptors they bind to.

How the Human Body Processes GABA

The human body processes GABA in several ways. One of the most important processes is the conversion of glutamic acid to GABA by the enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase. The body can also produce GABA from Vitamin B6, which is a necessary cofactor for the production of GABA.

Once GABA is produced, it crosses the blood-brain barrier and enters the brain, where it binds to GABA receptors. GABA-A receptors are widely distributed in the brain and are responsible for the sedative effects of GABA. GABA-B receptors, on the other hand, are mainly found in the brainstem and spinal cord and are involved in the relaxation of muscles [2].

After binding to the receptors, GABA activates inhibitory neurons in the brain, leading to decreased neuronal activity and increased relaxation. GABA also promotes the release of other neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which further enhance its calming effects. [3]

How Long Does GABA Take to Work for Sleep?

GABA supplements typically take around 30-45 minutes to take effect. However, the timeline can differ for individuals based on factors such as weight, metabolism, and dosage. [4] [5]

Scientific studies suggest that the effectiveness of GABA supplements for sleep depends on several factors, including the timing of its use and the amount used. Continued use also showed that GABA became more effective up until 4 weeks of consistent use. [4]

For example, one study found that participants who received higher doses of GABA supplements reported better sleep quality than those who received lower doses. Overall, scientific evidence supports the use of GABA supplements as a safe and effective way to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.

Factors that Affect GABA's Effectiveness for Sleep

Various factors can impact the efficacy of GABA supplements for sleep. For instance, caffeine intake, high-stress levels, and medication interactions can affect the effectiveness of GABA supplements. Scientific studies suggest that GABA may not work for everyone, based on individual variations in metabolism and brain chemistry.

GABA Dose For Sleep

Generally speaking anything above 200mg should be effective for aiding sleep, however, most studies show that 300mg is the optimal dose of GABA to take to aid sleep.

How Long Does GABA Take To Work For Anxiety?

One study managed to show that GABA worked to improve anxiety within an hour, similar to it’s effective speed for sleep. [6] It’s effectiveness has been corroborated by multiple studies and overall it looks to be effective within 30 mins to an hour at doses of around 100mg. It was shown to generally take longer in lower doses, but seemed to have some impact (although less consistently) at 30mg.

It should also be noted that several studies showed that the effectiveness of GABA supplements for anxiety improved over time and it was a lot more effective after 4-8 weeks of continued use. [4] [7]

Factors that Affect GABA's Effectiveness for Anxiety

Consistent use of GABA showed that it became more effective over time with daily use notably more so after 4 weeks, and some studies showing that it takes up to 8 weeks to reach maximum efficacy. [4] [8]

Caffeine intake, similarly to sleep seems to lowers GABA's efficacy.

Dose Of GABA For Anxiety

100mg seems to be the optimum dose of GABA for anxiety if you want it to work within 30-40 minutes, however, if there is less of a rush and you’re looking to aid baseline anxiety a dose of 30mg or above could be as effective with less risk of GABA side effects and tolerance.

Risks and Side Effects of GABA Supplements

While GABA supplements are generally considered safe, they do have some potential risks and side effects. For instance, some studies suggest that long-term use of GABA supplements may affect brain function, such as causing memory loss, dizziness, and headaches.


●    GABA is a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and inhibits nerve impulses in the brain.

●    GABA supplements take around 30-45 minutes to take effect for sleep and an hour for anxiety, and the dosage and timing can impact effectiveness.

●    Caffeine intake, high stress levels, medication interactions, and individual variations in metabolism and brain chemistry can affect GABA's effectiveness for sleep and anxiety.

●    GABA supplements are generally safe but can cause potential risks and side effects such as memory loss, dizziness, and headaches.

●    In case of doubt, always speak to your doctor first! 

●    GABA supplements should be used as part of a comprehensive sleep routine that incorporates other healthy lifestyle habits for best results.


1. Smriga, M., & Torii, K. (2003). L-theanine, a natural anti-stress and relaxant amino acid, promotes relaxation without drowsiness. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 27(5), 879-887. [DOI](

2. Sivamani, R. K., Newman, J. W., & Ananthaseshan, S. (2017). Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)-Based Dietary Supplements: A Review of Health Benefits and Risks. Frontiers in nutrition, 4, 63. [DOI](

3. Kimura, R., Murata, T., & Matsumoto, K. (2001). Influence of alkylamides of glutamic acid and related compounds on the central nervous system. III. Effect of gamma-ethyl-GABA on preanesthetic sedation, anesthesia and analgesia. Methods and findings in experimental and clinical pharmacology, 23(1), 1-4. [DOI](

4. Effects of Oral Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) Administration on Stress and Sleep in Humans: A Systematic Review

5. Hinton T., Jelinek H. F., Viengkhou V., Johnston G. A., Matthews S. (2019). Effect of GABA-fortified oolong tea on reducing stress in a university student cohort.

6. Yoshida S., Haramoto M., Fukuda T., Mizuno H., Tanaka A., Nishimura M., et al. (2015). Optimization of a γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) enrichment process for hokkaido white rice and the effects of GABA-enriched white rice on stress relief in humans.

7. Maskevich S., Cassanet A., Allen N. B., Trinder J., Bei B. (2020). Sleep and stress in adolescents: the roles of pre-sleep arousal and coping during school and vacation.

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