If you’ve been looking for advice on how to combat insomnia, you’ll most likely have come across a number of medical and natural remedies. One perhaps unusual nutrient that is often mentioned is tart cherry juice. In recent years, researchers have investigated the benefits of this melatonin-rich fruit product in helping to promote sleep and relaxation.
Insomniacs of all ages and walks of like are touting the knockout effects of tart cherry juice, claiming they deliver the sleep-like-a-baby benefit without the wake-up grogginess that comes with other sleep aids like melatonin.
Some clinical studies suggest tart cherries are a useful sleep enhancer. Also, many doctors and dietitians believe the juice may be helpful as a natural sleep aid when used occasionally. “Cherries are a rich source of polyphenols and vitamin C. As a result, they decrease inflammation and promote sleep,” according to nutritional psychiatrist Uma Naidoo, MD.
Tryptophan, Melatonin and Sleep
Everyone knows that a good night’s sleep prepares you to face the day. What’s more, several nutrients promote good sleep quality and support your mood.
During sleep, our bodies make metabolic, hormonal, cognitive and muscular repairs. Insufficient sleep, therefore, comes with a multitude of health risks, including weight gain, weakened immunity, increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, decreased muscle recovery, high blood pressure and memory issues. Enter one superhero of a superfood, shown to have an incredibly positive impact on our ability to sleep faster, longer, and better: the tart cherry.
Just like many plants, tart cherries are packed with a range of so-called “phytonutrients”. Many of these offer antioxidant properties, helping to protect the plant from sun damage. These nutrients tend to be particularly prevalent in the fruits. Three specific nutrients are found in cherries which are associated with sleep:
Tryptophan, an amino acid found in many foods and supplements, is one of them. It’s necessary for making proteins and other important molecules in your body, including some that are essential for optimal sleep and mood. Tryptophan is converted into melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate our sleep-wake cycles, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood and sleep. More tryptophan means more melatonin and serotonin and, theoretically, better sleep.
Serotonin, a hormone, and neurotransmitter, is sometimes known as the happy chemical, playing a role in regulating mood. It is a chemical that the body produces naturally. It’s needed for the nerve cells and brain to function.
While tart cherries contain melatonin and can boost the body’s melatonin production, tart cherries are not the same as the hormone melatonin or a melatonin dietary supplement. Melatonin itself is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness.
Benefits of Tart Cherries
Tart cherry juice’s positive effect on sleep is likely due to tryptophan and melatonin, helping to the body transition to sleep.
Every 100g of tart cherries contain about 9mg of tryptophan. Each day, people require about 250-425mg of tryptophan. In sleep research of tryptophan supplements, experts have people take tryptophan before bed. Similarly, drinking tart cherry juice may be most effective for sleep when it is consumed in the evening. Drinking a glass of tart cherry juice after a meal of sleep-supporting foods may provide added benefit.
Drinking tart cherry juice alone could raise your blood sugar more quickly than when you combine it with other foods, so it is better to combine it with other foods that can induce sleep, such as cheese, high in tryptophan, or almonds, high in melatonin.
Tart cherries also contain melatonin, and there is evidence to show that drinking tart cherry juice increases melatonin available in the body. Increasing your intake of melatonin is likely to prompt you to fall asleep quicker and experience better sleep quality. Drinking tart cherry juice may provide additional benefits beyond improved sleep.
Improved muscle recovery
The antioxidants present in tart cherry juice have been shown to reduce muscle damage and pain and improves athletic performance.
Tart cherry juice may be able to reduce pain in instances other than athletic recovery, too. Studies of people with arthritis found that consuming tart cherry juice reduced arthritis-related pain and stiffness, as well as improved biological markers associated with arthritis.
It is believed that the antioxidants and bioflavonoids found in tart cherries scavenge free radicals, reduce DNA degradation, and strengthen membranes, resulting in a reduction of inflammation and joint pain.
Improved memory and brain health
The antioxidant properties of tart cherry juice might also help keep your brain healthy and protect against degeneration. A recent study by researchers at the University of Delaware discovered that regular consumption of tart cherry improved cognitive abilities, including short- and long-term memory and decision-making skills. It is believed the anthocyanins in tart cherry juice reduce oxidative stress, degeneration, and inflammation in the brain.
There are other potential benefits to taking a shot of tart cherry juice due to its unique nutritional profile: it may boost the immune system, improve brain function, protect the heart and cardiovascular system, reduce muscle soreness, and aid in weight management.
Tart cherries have a high concentration of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory polyphenols, which help to decrease oxidative stress. Those nutrients are likely to be the reason tart cherry juice consumed before and/or after intense exercise has been shown to help speed up recovery and decrease muscle soreness.
*DREEM TIP* 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. If the sour taste of the cherry juice does not suit your preferences, you can also buy tart cherry extract as a supplement in pill form.
Our routine before bed is a critical part of our ability to fall into a deep sleep that will allow us to wake up and feel restored. The chances of deep sleep are the highest when we really focus on the constellation of things that surround our sleep, and things that impact our sleep sometimes aren’t always widely known.
Avoiding screens that emit blue light close to bedtime, not eating at least 90 minutes before sleeping and practicing mindfulness routines are some strategies for better sleep.