A small pilot study shows the healthy beverage can help fight sleeplessness for certain people, but it’s no replacement for front line insomnia treatments. Tart cherry juice may be useful as a supplement to sleep hygiene and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Tart cherries contain melatonin, a natural hormone that regulates sleep. Melatonin supplements have produced mixed results for insomnia patients in past studies. They may benefit some people, but melatonin supplements aren't the mythical "magic bullet" for sleep.
The latest pilot study, published in the July issue of The Journal of Medical Food, pitted tart cherry juice against a placebo beverage. Only 15 adult insomnia patients drank an 8 oz. glass of tart cherry twice a day for two weeks. After a two week break, they began to regularly consume a placebo drink. The participants kept a sleep diary to track their insomnia throughout the study.
The subjects spent fewer overall minutes awake after initially falling asleep when they drank the tart cherry juice. Otherwise the effects were negligible. It still took the same amount of time to get to sleep, and the total sleep time did not improve.
The results were similar to valerian or melatonin, other slightly effective natural remedies. The authors concluded cognitive behavioral therapy and sleeping pills are far better treatments for sleeplessness.
The good news is eating or drinking tart cherries is great for other aspects of your health. The so-called “super fruit” contains high levels of antioxidants and other nutrients such as vitamin C, beta carotene and potassium.
Photo by Larry Page