Social media trends come and go, and from time to time there will be a trend that touts remarkable health benefits. A recent viral social media sensation that has taken the spotlight is tart cherry juice. Advocates claim that it possesses remarkable sleep-enhancing properties but is there any truth to it? Let's explore the science behind this idea and see if tart cherry juice can really help you get a good night's rest.
The Craze Behind Cherries
Tart cherries, also known as sour cherries or Montmorency cherries, are a variety of cherries distinct for their intense flavor. What sets them apart from their sweeter counterparts is their remarkable nutritional profile. Tart cherries are special because they are rich in antioxidants, particularly a type called anthocyanins. In addition to providing health benefits, these antioxidants also give tart cherries their bright red color.
The Sleep Connection
Beyond their potential for combating oxidative stress and inflammation, tart cherries have garnered attention for their potential role in improving sleep. The idea that tart cherry juice could influence sleep quality stems from its high melatonin content. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, and it plays a crucial role in regulating sleep-wake cycles. Natural melatonin production tends to increase in the evening, signaling the body that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
Tart cherries are one of the few food sources that contain melatonin. Studies have shown that consuming tart cherry juice may lead to elevated melatonin levels in the body, potentially promoting more restful sleep. Additionally, tart cherries contain compounds that may reduce inflammation, which can also contribute to improved sleep by alleviating discomfort and promoting relaxation.
A 2012 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition examined the effects of tart cherry juice on insomnia in older adults. The study followed 20 healthy adult volunteers and looked at how sleep patterns changed for those who drank 1 ounce (about 30 milliliters) of tart cherry juice concentrate 30 minutes before their evening meal for seven days.
The tart cherry juice drinkers saw "significantly elevated" melatonin levels compared to their baseline and those in the placebo group, as well as increased sleep time and sleep efficiency (the percent of time in bed where a person is sleeping).
The results indicated that tart cherry juice consumption led to a reduction in insomnia symptoms, with participants experiencing longer sleep duration and better sleep quality.
Another study from 2018 followed eight participants who were 50 years old or older. Each participant had chronic insomnia. Those who drank about 1 cup (240 milliliters) of tart cherry juice in the morning and another cup one to two hours before bed for two weeks saw their sleep time increase by 84 minutes.
While these studies offer promising insights into the potential sleep benefits of tart cherry juice, one dietitian believes it has less to do with the melatonin in cherries and more to do with tryptophan, which you may be familiar with due to its notoriety as the Thanksgiving slumber-inducer.
“Small amounts of melatonin can be found in fruits, nuts, olive oil, and wine,” says Ashley Dawson, a registered dietitian on the staff at Texas Health Plano. “There has been some buzz from studies showing that tart cherry juice resulted in better sleep, and people believe that tart cherry juice is high in melatonin, contributing to this. However, it’s not the melatonin alone in tart cherry juice but the tryptophan, which helps produce melatonin.”
With research still ongoing, ultimately, the decision to try tart cherry juice for its sleep benefits is purely up to you. However, Dawson warns that it's important for people to keep in mind that tart cherry juice is high in sugar, which can have the opposite effect on sleep. If you are considering tart cherry juice for sleep, it is best to opt for juice without added sugar, so you do not inadvertently add too much sugar to your diet.
How to Incorporate Tart Cherry Juice for Better Sleep
If you want to try tart cherry juice to improve your sleep, here's what you can do:
- Pick the Right Juice: Make sure you choose 100% pure tart cherry juice with no added sugars or artificial ingredients. The quality of the juice matters, as pure juice has more melatonin.
- Timing: Most people say it's best to drink tart cherry juice about 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. That's when your body's melatonin production is naturally rising.
- Start Small: Begin with a small glass of tart cherry juice. Some people find that even a half-cup works well.
- Be Consistent: Consistency is key when experimenting with tart cherry juice for sleep. Incorporate it into your nightly routine for a few weeks to assess its impact on your sleep patterns.
- Combine with Good Sleep Hygiene: Tart cherry juice can be a valuable addition to your sleep hygiene practices, but don't forget to also create a good sleep environment, like a dark and quiet room.
While tart cherry juice has become a popular topic in the quest for better sleep, the jury is still out on any substantial benefits. While initial research shows promising results, it's important to remember that not everyone will have the same results.
If you're having trouble sleeping, it's a good idea to talk to a health care expert who can help you explore different ways to get a good night's sleep. Tart cherry juice could be a tasty part of your journey to better sleep, but it's not a magical fix for everyone.