Who needs more sleep? Better yet, who needs better quality sleep? I am going to hinder a guess and say that 100% of the people reading this do, otherwise you would not be reading it, however, I'd even hinder a guess that the large majority of everyone in society needs either better or longer sleep as well.
From the outside looking in, it appears we are a tired nation...
Unfortunately, with work stressors, time constraints and all the obligatory tasks we are required to do these days, sometimes sleep length is an unavoidable problem, so for this article specifically, I will be focussing on sleep quality instead.
But before we move on, is one more important than the other?
Well, it’s probably still up for debate, as both are important, and it is also important to acknowledge that being able to objectively measure quality is difficult as well. However, in a 1997 review paper looking at 2 studies on quality versus quantity, subjects who were sleeping between 7 and 7hrs 45minutes, which is considered to be adequate in length, reported a better sense of wellbeing, health and reduced sleepiness when the quality was considered (1).
Furthermore, poor sleep quality irrespective of the length was linked to a greater incidence of anxiety, stress related disorders and in some cases, mild depression and a dissatisfaction with life.
So while the simplistic approach of saying “get 7-8 hours of sleep a night" may be ideal, it may also be advantageous to recommend a method or means to improve the quality of sleep as well.
Which is where Phenibut comes in
Phenibut is known as a Central Nervous System depressant and is a derivative of the neurotransmitter GABA, which is responsible for controlling the neuronal excitability of the body and its direct effect on muscle tone.
In essence, GABA controls the activity of excitatory neurotransmitters such as adrenaline, by inhibiting their activity within the brain, which then follows into the body by relaxing muscle tone.
Conversely, Phenibut also stimulates the release of dopamine, which is known as a ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter, and after consumption, it places the user in a state of calm, without extreme sedation like sleeping medication does.
Sounds great right? Well, it is… but it needs to be used appropriately.
Dating back to the 60’s, Phenibut gained popularity in Eastern block countries such as Russia, as it was recognised for its anxiolytic effects (2). Due to its method of action, Phenibut, which is far more bioavailable than GABA and is the reason why it is preferentially recommended, was used to help assist in reducing stress, anxiety and depression in individuals using the supplement daily.
One thing to consider with Phenibut, however, is its secondary method of action, whereby it may also provide nootropic benefits as well. Nootropics are known as brain enhancers, which for a person trying to sleep, is not ideal.
So in this instance, Phenibut is absolutely one of the ‘less is more’ type of supplements available and not something that should be dosed higher to get a better response as it may actually have an opposing effect.
But how much is too much?
Unfortunately, to date, there is little concrete evidence on specified dosing for Phenibut as its recommendations are based on its proposed physiological benefits as opposed to studied outcomes. However, for its anxiolytic benefits, it is reported that small doses taken multiple times per day are the preferred method of use as this will prevent its sedative effects from taking effect throughout the day.
But seeing we are discussing sleep in this article, currently the recommendations for Phenibut use for the purpose of inducing a deeper sleep are between 250mg and 1000mg, taken 30-45min prior to bedtime.
Consuming Phenibut at this time will help reduce the activity of excitatory neurotransmitters in preparation for sleep while simultaneously increasing dopamine and providing a sense of wellbeing. Creating such an environment is reported to lead to increased sleep quality, heightened dreaming and a greater time spent in REM sleep, which is the most restorative phase of sleep you can experience.
Due to its effect on dopamine, however, it is highly encouraged to begin at the lower end of dosing, as too much Phenibut may result in a nootropic effect as discussed earlier and may lead to difficulty in inducing sleep.
Furthermore, in a single study looking at the dependence effect of Phenibut, consistent overconsumption of Phenibut should be taken with caution as it may lead to a level of dependence, whereby the dosage effect is minimised and potential withdrawal symptoms may be experienced (3). It is important to note, however, that this is currently the only major reported dependence available to date.
Knowing this, it is not currently recommended to use Phenibut daily and the dosage per use should always follow a less is more principle.
To summarise, Phenibut is known as an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) supplement that has shown great benefits in reducing stress, anxiety and tension. Supplementing with Phenibut prior to sleep may aid in reducing tension, improving mood, relaxing the mind and enhancing the quality of sleep through increased REM time, which has been linked to improving multiple health markers.
Utilising Phenibut as a sleep aid should be used in conjunction with an appropriate pre-bed routine, which you can read more about in our 5 Steps to Better Sleep article.
Disclaimer – if you currently suffer from or have a family history of mood related disorders, it is highly encouraged that you seek professional advice from your preferred practitioner prior to use. Some individuals using medication may experience adverse effects and it is recommended that Phenibut should not be used unless cleared by your preferred medical practitioner prior to consumption.
Pilcher, J., Ginter, D. and Sadowsky, B. (1997). Sleep quality versus sleep quantity: Relationships between sleep and measures of health, well-being and sleepiness in college students. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 42(6), pp.583-596.
Lapin, I. (2006). Phenibut (β-Phenyl-GABA): A Tranquilizer and Nootropic Drug. CNS Drug Reviews, 7(4), pp.471-481.(abstract only).
Samokhvalov, A., Paton-Gay, C., Balchand, K. and Rehm, J. (2013). Phenibut dependence. Case Reports, 2013(feb06 1), pp.bcr2012008381-bcr2012008381.