Saturday, March 25, 2006

GABA, Ions & Sleepy

OK so you're interested in learning about how sleeping pills work. Maybe you've visited a couple of websites, perhaps talked to your doctor. One thing is for shore: when you start learning how sleeping pills work you start to hear about GABA. What is GABA and why is it so important for sleep?

GABA stands for gamma amino butyric acid. GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. An inhibitory neurotransmitter is one that decreases brain activity. All sedatives including Valium, Klonipin, Xanax, Halcion, Ativan, Ambien and Lunesta work by increasing GABA neurotransmission. They do this by binding to the GABA receptor and changing the way it functions.

The GABA receptor is a type of protein known as a ligand gated ion channel. When GABA binds to its receptor, it triggers a change in the receptor's shape which allows chloride ions to rush into the cell. Chloride ions are negatively charged and their presence in a neuron slows things way down. By increasing GABAerigic neurotransmission the above mentioned sedatives bring on a wave of peaceful sleepy.

You might be wondering how these sedatives effect GABA neurotransmission so effectively. It's an interesting story for another day...

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