Michelle Schoffro Cook August 22, 2014
Scientists could have some welcome news for insomniacs struggling to get a good night’s sleep. Researchers who presented at the Experimental Biology 2014 Annual Meeting found that tart cherry juice may help improve sleep quality, duration, reduce the severity of insomnia, and increase overall sleep efficiency.
Researchers from Louisiana State University gave insomniacs either eight ounces of tart cherry juice or an artificial cherry drink twice a day for two weeks. The Montmorency tart cherry juice was standardized to contain a set amount of proanthocyanidins and procyanidins—two naturally-occurring compounds in cherries.
The participants were assessed in multiple ways: blood work; in a sleep laboratory using polysomnography to evaluate sleep efficiency, onset, and duration; and questionnaires related to anxiety, depression, fatigue, and sleep.
The scientists found that taking the tart cherry juice for two weeks helped increase sleep time by almost an hour and a half each night in adults with insomnia. Additionally, they found that the cherry juice improved the quality of sleep each night. That’s good news for the 23 to 34 percent of the population aged 65+ who suffers from insomnia, which is defined as difficulty sleeping on average more than three nights a week, and can have serious health implications. Cherry juice has been known to contain the naturally-occurring hormone melatonin, which is frequently used in supplement form as a sleep aid.
The study, while small, provides hope for people suffering from insomnia, particularly since sleeping pills have been linked to a four-fold increased risk of falling in the elderly, which can lead to broken hips and premature death.
Montmorency tart cherries are a source of the naturally-occurring compound melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. This compound has been attributed to tart cherry’s sleep-enhancing effects but the researchers believe other factors like proanthocyanidins and procyanidins also play a role. Either way, researchers found that the tart cherry juice increased the availability of tryptophan—the amino acid known for improving sleep
Co-author of the study, Frank L. Greenway, MD, director of the outpatient research clinic at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University believes that the unique combination of both melatonin and tryptophan are contributing to the juice’s sleep benefits. He and the other researchers conclude that drinking a glass of tart cherry juice in the morning and evening may be a better and a safer way to treat insomnia…and certainly it’s a better tasting way.