Ask Keri: Is there evidence that tart cherry juice can really help me sleep better?
Keri Says: Tart cherry juice, which used to be more known for its post-workout recovery powers, is being touted as a natural sleep aid—along the lines of melatonin or Valerian root supplements—more and more. (Especially as companies like Cheribundi market their products to consumers.)
The short answer is that there is some evidence tart cherry juice could help certain people sleep more soundly. Either way, it’s also filled with anti-inflammatory phytonutrients like flavonoids that are good for your overall health.
RELATED: 10 Foods That Help You Sleep
Let’s look at the research to learn more.
Tart Cherry Juice for Better Sleep: The Science
First, a 2010 study kicked off the research on tart cherry juice. In this study, 15 healthy adults over the age of 65 who suffered from insomnia drank the juice in the morning and evening. Compared to a placebo drink, the juice significantly reduced “insomnia severity,” a measure that tracks how many minutes you spend awake after you fall asleep. However, the juice didn’t lead to improvements in other measures of sleep like sleep latency (how fast you fall asleep), total sleep time, or sleep efficiency (time spent asleep compared to time spent in bed).
The study authors concluded that “the results of this pilot study suggest that CherryPharm, a tart cherry juice blend, has modest beneficial effects on sleep in older adults with insomnia with effect sizes equal to or exceeding those observed in studies of valerian and in some, but not all, studies of melatonin, the two most studied natural products for insomnia.” In other words, it might work about as well as other more common natural remedies for this specific demographic.
Why? A 2011 follow-up study set out to figure out the mechanism, by measuring whether the juice was increasing melatonin in the body. It found that melatonin was significantly elevated in participants drinking the tart cherry juice. In this study (of 20 volunteers 18-40), time in bed, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency were all improved by sipping the juice.
Finally, the two most talked-about studies, from 2014 and 2017, both found that in adults over 50 with insomnia, drinking tart cherry juice extended sleep time by almost 90 minutes. The more recent research also found the juice was associated with decreased markers of inflammation in the blood. This matters because inflammatory molecules can affect sleep. Still, both studies involved less than 10 participants and were funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute.
Tart Cherry Juice for Better Sleep: The Bottom Line
What to make of all of this? Basically, just like melatonin (or even a hot cup of chamomile!), tart cherry juice shows promise as a natural sleep aid.
It’s important to keep in mind that the evidence for its efficacy isn’t conclusive. Almost all of the studies on its effects have been super small, completed over a short period of time, and funded by the cherry industry. Most were also done in adults over 50 with insomnia, so it’s hard to say how the effects translate to other populations.
If you’re having trouble sleeping and want to give it a shot, though, why not?
Just remember the evidence is mainly based on drinking eight ounces of the juice in the morning and eight in the evening, which is the equivalent of eating about 100 cherries per day (and comes with a significant amount of sugar). We’re also only talking about juice made from tart cherries, not the sweet Bing ones that are common at the grocery store. In other words, eating a handful of cherries as a snack likely won’t have the same effect …although it will be great for your body.
(Featured Photo: Maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com)