More than 40 million Americans experience sleep disruptions, spending over $32.4 billion in 2012 on supplemental sleep aids, sleep therapists and gadgets that would help them get some shuteye, according to Clinical Psychologist Dr. Michael J. Breus and a report from "The Fiscal Times." The ancient Chinese, Greeks and Asians have used cherries and their juice for millennia, not just in food and cooking, but also to treat pain and inflammation. As modern research investigating these claims shows, a glass of tart cherry juice may also be helpful in treating insomnia.
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Tart, or sour, cherries come in hundreds of varieties, although only a few are commercially important, such as the Montmorency, Richmond and English morello. Tart cherries contain high level of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, but it’s the antioxidants that show the most promise in improving sleep. When purchasing tart cherry juice you may have to go to a health food store or the organic section of your supermarket. Cherry juice cocktail is not the same as pure tart cherry juice.
Dr. Breus notes that the Montmorency type of tart cherry is the richest natural source of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone the pineal gland in your brain produces in small amounts that helps regulate the sleep cycle by helping you fall asleep at night and stay awake during the day. When it’s dark outside, your body starts producing more melatonin, but levels drop gradually as it gets light. Melatonin is marketed in supplement form in drug and grocery stores and on the Internet in tablet, time-release capsule, tincture and spray forms.
A study published in the “Journal of Medicinal Food” in June 2010 looked at the sleep habits of 15 older adults as they drank 8-ounces of tart cherry juice for two weeks, in the morning and again in the evening. Then they were given a similar drink that didn’t contain cherry juice for an additional two weeks. The results showed that while the subjects were drinking the cherry juice, they reported a significant decrease in episodes and severity of insomnia, saving an average 17 minutes of wake time before falling asleep. The volunteers didn’t experience the same effects while on the placebo juice. The results were duplicated in a similar fashion in research using tart cherries in a study published in the December 2012 issue of the "European Journal of Nutrition." This study showed that consumption of tart cherry juice increases the amount of time sleeping and an improvement in sleep quality by increasing melatonin.
Although the few human studies using tart cherry juice haven’t reported any significant side effects, there hasn’t been any long-term research to determine potential risks or the doses that would be most effective. In the study published in the “Journal of Medicinal Food,” the subjects drank 8 ounces of tart cherry juice in the morning and then again one to two hours before bedtime.