A pilot study conducted by a team of University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester and VA Center of Canandaigua researchers found that cherry juice blend could have modest but beneficial effects on sleep in older adults with insomnia. Drinking tart cherry juice every day could help millions of people with insomnia, according to their study that was reported in the Journal of Medicinal Food.
According to the latest statistics, more than 40 million Americans experience insomnia. According to the National Institutes of Health, another 20 million experience occasional sleep disruptions, putting their health and well-being at risk, and leaving many Americans searching for sleep solutions. Every year Americans spend more than $84 million on over-the-counter sleep aids.
Although the researchers cautioned that the effects cherry juice has on insomnia are considerably less than those for evidence-based treatments of insomnia such as hypnotic agents and cognitive-behavioral therapies for insomnia, the findings open the gateway to exploring the benefits of cherry juice for insomniacs.
Russel J. Reiter, Ph.D, a biomedical scientist at the University of Texas Health Science Center and a leading world authority on melatonin, says while melatonin supplement pills have been heavily promoted as a sleep aid, foods such as cherries — available year-round as dried, frozen and juice — may be a better alternative for boosting the body’s own supply of melatonin. “When consumed regularly, tart cherries may help regulate the body’s natural sleep cycle and increase sleep efficiency, including decreasing the time it takes to fall asleep,” says Reiter. “And, because cherries are so rich in other antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, you get other important health benefits.”
The study had 25 participants. They drank 8 ounces of a tart cherry juice beverage in the morning and evening for 2 weeks and experienced significant reductions in reported insomnia severity – compared to when they were drinking the juice. The participants experienced significant reductions in reported insomnia severity and the adults saved about 17 minutes of wake time after going to sleep, on average, when drinking cherry juice daily, compared to when they were drinking the juice drink.
The researchers believe tart cherries’ natural benefits could be due in part to their relatively high content of melatonin, a natural antioxidant in cherries with established ability to help moderate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. It is created in the body, primarily the brain in very small amounts, and melatonin plays a role in inducing sleepiness at night and wakefulness during the day.
Melatonin, is also a powerful anti-oxidant, helping reduce age-related inflammation and fighting free radicals in the body. Cherries contain large amounts of other potent antioxidant compounds, including anthocyanins – the compounds responsible for cherries’ bright red color. An increasing number of studies demonstrates that cherries may help reduce inflammation, aid muscle recovery and reduce risk factors of chronic conditions.
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