Can Cherry Juice Really Help Treat Insomnia?

cherry-juiceTart cherry juice has many health benefits and is loaded with many important antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Now a study suggests that drinking tart cherry juice in the morning and evening may help you sleep better.

According to researchers from the Louisiana State University, drinking Montmorency tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks helps increase sleep time by nearly 90 minutes among older adults with insomnia. The findings were presented at the recent Experimental Biology 2014 meeting.

For the study, seven older adults with insomnia with an average age of 68 consumed eight ounces of tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks. This was followed by a two-week washout period and then a two-week period when another beverage was consumed a placebo. The researchers discovered that those who drank the Montmorency tart cherry juice in the morning and at night were able to sleep more than an hour longer each night averaging 84 minutes compared to the placebo test. Their sleep also tended to be more efficient.

The participants slumber was studied in a controlled setting using overnight polysomnography to evaluate sleep efficiency, such as sleep onset and duration. They also completed questionnaires related to sleep, fatigue, depression and anxiety and had blood work done.

So just what is it about tart cherry juice? Montmorency tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin a hormone that helps regulate the sleep/wake cycle. The researchers believe that it is a unique combination of melatonin and tryptophan in Montmorency tart cherries that likely contributes to the sleep benefits and concludes that drinking a glass of tart cherry juice in the morning and in the evening may be a better and safer way to treat insomnia. The researchers believe that ruby red pigments in tart cherry juice known as proanthocyandins play a role as well. These natural polyphenolic compounds are especially abundant in Montmorency tart cherries.

For the study, tart cherry juice helped to increase the availability of tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid and a precursor to serotonin that helps with sleep. The cherry juice was shown in cells to inhibit an enzyme indoleamine 2.3 dioxygen that degrades tryptophan. Tryptophan degradation is a known predictor of insomnia and is also related to inflammation.

Even though the amount of tryptophan in tart cherry juice is smaller than a normal dose given to aid sleep, the compounds in tart cherries could prevent the tryptophan from breaking down so its able to work in the body more effectively, said Frank L. Greenway, MD, study co-author and director of outpatient research clinic at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University. These compounds may help to improve tryptophan bioavailability for serotonin synthesis, which could have a positive effect on sleep. Increasing serotonin also helps improve mood and decrease inflammation.

Greenway added that it is the unique combination of melatonin and tryptophan in Montmorency tart cherries that is likely contributing to the sleep benefits. He concludes that drinking a glass of tart cherry juice in the morning and the evening may be a better and safer way to treat insomnia.

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