If you are plagued by insomnia, you know the stress it can cause. There are several treatment options for the condition, but many people fear becoming dependent upon pharmaceutical sleep agents. Two natural alternatives–valerian and melatonin–have been shown to help insomniacs sleep. Now there is a third: tart cherry juice.
In the past, tart cherry juice blends have been shown to reduce the inflammation and oxidative stress caused by exercise in healthy adults. Participants in the studies that demonstrated these effects reported improvements in their sleep during the studies. These reports lead scientists to postulate two plausible mechanisms for the effect of tart cherry juice on sleep. One theory holds that the participants merely responded to the melatonin present in cherries. The other involves the close relationship between inflammation and sleep regulation; high levels of inflammation can hinder sleep, so any agent that reduces inflammation should help with sleep.
Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center collaborating with scientists from other institutions recently undertook a project to examine the anti-insomnia potential of tart cherry juice and published their results in the Journal of Medicinal Food. They conducted a randomized, double-blind study in which fifteen elderly insomniacs drank tart cherry juice and a placebo on an alternating schedule for eight weeks. The results showed that the tart cherry juice reduced the severity of insomnia by improving sleep maintenance. In other words, insomniacs drinking the cherry juice woke up less frequently during the night. However, cherry juice did not diminish the amount of time it took participants to fall asleep.
The researchers concluded that tart cherry juice is of modest benefit for insomniacs. It worked better than valerian and at least as well as melatonin, but not as well as cognitive and behavior-modification therapies. However, the authors cited several limitations to their study, including small sample size, inexact sleep measurement methodology, use of only one tart cherry juice formulation and lack of time to experiment with dosing schedules and quantities.
If you would like to include tart cherry juice into your natural sleep-promoting regimen, you could try the following:
Drink Different Doses. In the study, the subjects drank eight ounces of tart cherry juice in the morning and then again one to two hours before bed. You could try to drink more or less of the juice, or drink it closer to bedtime.
Try Different Juice Brands. The researchers used a proprietary cherry juice blend made by CherryPharm, Inc. You could try to use a different blend or even make your own from tart cherries.
Combine Cherry Juice with Other Natural Agents. Supplementation of tart cherry juice with valerian or additional melatonin may produce additive sleep-promoting effects. Remember to consult your doctor before adding any herbal supplements to your health regime, especially if you take prescription medications.