Tart cherry juice drinkers gain sleep advantage

Americans seeking a better night's sleep may need to look no further than tart cherry juice, according to a new study in the European Journal of Nutrition.1 An international team of researchers found that when adults had two daily glasses of tart cherry juice, they slept 39 minutes longer, on average, and had up to 6 percent increase in overall sleep efficiency (significantly less non-sleep time in bed), compared to when they drank a non-cherry, fruit cocktail.

In a study conducted at Northumbria University, twenty healthy adults drank two servings of tart concentrate (30mL of 100% pure Montmorency juice concentrate per serving, diluted in a half pint of water; provided by CherryActive, Sunbury, UK) or a non-cherry for seven consecutive days at a time – one serving when they woke up, and another before bed. The researchers tracked participant's habits, and after drinking the cherry juice, they found significant improvements in sleep behaviors, most notably longer , less daytime napping and increased overall sleep efficiency (the ratio of time spent in bed to time spent sleeping) compared to when they drank the non-cherry juice drink.

The researchers attribute the sleep benefits to the melatonin content of the red Super Fruit – a powerful antioxidant critical for sleep-wake cycle regulation. Each serving of the juice concentrate was estimated to contain the equivalent of 90 – 100 tart cherries, providing a significant level of melatonin in the juice and ultimately in the bodies of the participants.

Previous research has supported the benefits of tart cherries as a sleep aid – a potentially wide-reaching benefit since nearly one-third of all Americans suffer from sleep disturbances affecting their health and wellbeing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.2,3 Currently, Americans spend more than $84 million on over-the-counter sleep aids each year, leaving many searching for cost-effective ways to help manage their conditions.4 While more research is necessary before medical professionals turn to cherries as a sole treatment for sleep disorders, the scientists conclude that tart cherry juice concentrate could be a viable "adjunct intervention for disturbed sleep across a number of scenarios."

More information: 1. Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, McHugh MP, Ellis J. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 2011 Oct 30 [Epub ahead of print].

2. Pigeon WR, Carr M, Gorman C, Perlis ML. Effects of tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2010;13:579-583.

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Unhealthy sleep-related behaviors – 12 states, 2009." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. March 4, 2011 / 60(08);233-238. www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6008a2.htm

4. Hossain JL, Shapiro CM. The prevalence, cost implications, and management of sleep disorders: an overview. Sleep and Breathing. 2002;6:85-102.

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