One superpower of tart cherries (that you probably need).

It's probably the most common question I get - "How can I get (better) sleep?"

Without diving into sleep hygiene and other ways to improve sleep, I wanted to give you one quick hack:

Tart cherries! I know...so unsexy. BUT studies have shown that drinking/eating tart cherries can actually improve your sleep. How? Tart cherries naturally contain melatonin. And by consuming them, they have shown to markedly increase your levels of melatonin naturally. 

I understand the need to take melatonin. If you're desperate for sleep and you don't want to resort to Ambien, melatonin is a common choice. But there is speculation that if you take high doses (over 1 mg) for a long time, it may interfere with your melatonin pathway.

 Let me explain.

Your body is very sophisticated. If you chronically take high dose melatonin, there is a theory that you will naturally produce less to keep your body in homeostasis (balance). Makes sense right?

Taking melatonin (1 mg or less) can be used as a temporary crutch to get your sleep cycle back on track. Tart cherry juice may be one way to wean yourself off of supplemental melatonin. Or just help ease you into schneep schneep time (if you can also muster up the courage to turn off the TV/Cell phone/Tablet).

Tart cherry juice is also being studied for its anti-inflammatory properties and potential use as a sports recovery aid. This anti-inflammatory power is thought to also help with sleep.

Here's what researchers are saying:

...consumption of a tart cherry juice concentrate provides an increase in exogenous melatonin that is beneficial in improving sleep duration and quality in healthy men and women and might be of benefit in managing disturbed sleep.
— Howatson, et al 2012
When compared to placebo, the study beverage produced significant reductions in insomnia severity (minutes awake after sleep onset)
— Pigeon, et al 2010
Cherry juice increased sleep time and sleep efficiency. Cherry juice procyanidin B-2 inhibited IDO, increased tryptophan availability, reduced inflammation, and may be partially responsible for improvement in insomnia.
— Losso, et al 2018

Before you eat a bag of sweet cherries know that they have about 50 times less melatonin than tart ones. And dried cherries appear to have ZERO.

Punchline.

Buy a bottle of organic, unsweetened tart cherry juice. At night, throw a shot back as your night cap and see how you feel.

*Grocery Outlet usually carries Organic Cherry juice for under $3

*Thrive Market has a Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate (16 servings) for $23.

TIP: Another food with a natural source of melatonin is bananas. So blend a banana with some tart cherry juice. Sip on it as you ease into your (hopefully) relaxing sleep hygiene routine.

 

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References

Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, Mchugh MP, Ellis J. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 2012;51(8):909-16.

Pigeon WR, Carr M, Gorman C, Perlis ML. Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. J Med Food. 2010;13(3):579-83.

Losso JN, Finley JW, Karki N, et al. Pilot Study of the Tart Cherry Juice for the Treatment of Insomnia and Investigation of Mechanisms. Am J Ther. 2018;25(2):e194-e201.