Never mind the over-the-counter and prescription pills that can have numerous side effects, achieving a better night's sleep naturally might be as easy as downing a glass of tart cherry juice.

Scientists at Northumbria University in England initially discovered the link between tart cherry juice and better sleep when they studied the drink for its exercise-recovery properties. Since sleep is a vital part of the recovery process, the researchers were excited to find that the juice seemed to aid in that area. The reason? The juice raised levels of melatonin, the natural hormone that regulates sleep in the body. To gather more evidence, the study team recruited 20 volunteers to drink a small amount of either tart cherry juice or a placebo twice a day for a week. The volunteers gave urine samples before and after the experiment so the researchers could measure the amount of melatonin they produced. They also wore sensors that monitored their sleep/wake cycles. The scientists found that the study participants who drank tart cherry juice for a week saw an approximately 15 percent increase in melatonin levels and about a five percent increase in sleep quality. They slept a little longer than before and also reported napping less.

A different study lends support to the modest benefits of tart cherry juice when it comes to sleep. A team at the University of Rochester Medical Center gave a group of study subjects either cherry juice or a placebo for two weeks. After a two-week break during which participants took nothing, the researchers then gave the subjects the beverage they didn't have the first time for another two weeks. The result? When taking the cherry juice versus the placebo, the subjects reported falling asleep somewhat sooner, although they didn't sleep any longer or more soundly.

While melatonin is available over the counter in pill form, some consumers and experts are wary of it. Synthetic melatonin is not controlled or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Because of this, dosages may be significantly off. Side effects of synthetic melatonin may include fatigue and depression. So if your insomnia isn't too debilitating, consider tart cherry juice as a wise addition to your diet. It just might give you those extra few minutes of sleep you need.




American Dietetic Association