Photo of cherries in a basket
Sour cherries contain tryptophan, serotonin and melatonin to help regulate sleep/wake cycles

Cherry juice gives a good night’s sleep

4 November, 2011

Natural Health News — Drinking cherry juice significantly improves both the quality and duration of sleep, according to a new study.

The effect, according to researchers from the School of Life Sciences, is due to the way cherry juice significantly increases the levels of melatonin in the body, the hormone which regulates sleep, and could benefit those who have difficulty sleeping due to insomnia, shift work or jet lag.

The findings of this small study, which are published in the European Journal of Nutrition, show that people who have consumed cherry juice not only sleep for longer, but they also have improved quality of sleep, or ‘sleep efficiency’.

In the study, 20 healthy volunteers drank a 30ml serving of either tart Montmorency cherry juice or a placebo juice twice a day for seven days.

Urine samples were collected from all participants before and during the investigation to determine levels of melatonin, a naturally occurring compound that heavily influences the human sleep-wake cycle.

During the study the participants wore a special watch sensor which monitored their sleep and wake cycles and kept a daily diary on their sleeping patterns.

The researchers found that when participants drank cherry juice for a week there was a significant increase in their urinary melatonin (15-16%) compared to those taking the placebo drink.

Feedback from the sleep sensors showed that those who consumed the cherry juice saw an increase of around 15 minutes to the time spent in bed, 25 minutes in their total sleep time and a 5-6% increase in the quality of their sleep.

Cherry juice drinkers reported less daytime napping time compared to their normal sleeping habits before the study and the napping times of the placebo group.

Lead researcher, Dr Jason Ellis, director of the Centre for Sleep Research, School of Life Sciences said: “Although melatonin is available over the counter in other countries, it is not freely available in the UK. What makes these findings exciting is that the melatonin contained in tart cherry juice is sufficient to elicit a healthy sleep response.

“What’s more, these results provide us with more evidence surrounding the relationship between how we sleep and what we consume.”

This is not the first study to show sleep benefits from cherries. Eating cherries can provide you with a broad range of health benefits. For example, a 2010 report in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that drinking tart cherry juice alleviates insomnia. The mechanism causing this effect remains unknown, but it may involve increases in melatonin. A study published in the 2010 edition of the Journals of Gerontology noted that cherries contain tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin. Volunteers received daily doses of cherries for several days. Relative to placebo, cherry intake enhanced melatonin content and improved sleep quality.

There are many commercial cherry concentrates on the market. But you can also make your own. See our recipe for Sour Cherry Syrup.