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Sweet Dreams with Tart Cherry Juice at Bedtime

A reader reports that drinking tart cherry juice at bedtime leads to sound sleep. Research studies support the benefits of cherries for sleep.

If you, like so many people, suffer from insomnia, you may be feeling frustrated. The disadvantages of relying on sleeping pills, either prescription or over-the-counter, are becoming clearer. At the same time, the toll that sleep deprivation takes on health has also gotten a lot of attention. This is a terrible dilemma. Some readers have solved it with a cup of tart cherry juice at bedtime.

A Good Night’s Sleep at Last!

Q. Tart cherry juice didn’t help my arthritis, but it did help me get the first and subsequent best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time. Cherries contain melatonin and tryptophan, and they may be given the credit.

I drink a three-ounce glass of juice both morning and night made from concentrate (with no added sugar). This works for me.

A. Thank you for sharing your experience. Most people are not aware that there is research to support cherry juice for insomnia.
One small randomized controlled trial tested tart cherry juice for its ability to affect sleep (Nutrients, Sept. 2020).  The authors report that volunteers fell asleep faster and slept better after consuming cherry juice.

In another study, researchers also concluded that cherry juice was helpful against insomnia, even though the amount of melatonin it contained was low (American Journal of Therapeutics, March-April, 2018).  Earlier research showed that people who drank tart cherry juice before bed slept better and had higher urinary melatonin levels (European Journal of Nutrition, Dec. 2012).

Will Cherry Juice Help You Get Back to Sleep?

Q. I read in your column that tart cherry juice can help with sleep issues. I have no trouble falling asleep, but I wake up every night after four or five hours of sleep. Then I have trouble getting back to sleep. Of course, I need to use the bathroom once or twice a night.

After reading about tart cherry juice, I decided to try a product called Cheribundi Sleep that comes in 8 oz. bottles. In addition to tart cherry juice, it lists L-theanine and valerian root as ingredients.

I take it 20 minutes before going to bed, and it has increased my amount of sleep. I still wake up after about five hours but am able to get back to sleep in a reasonable period of time.

The hitch is I sometimes wake up feeling a little groggy. Could this be due to the valerian root? Have you heard of this problem?
As a result, I plan to switch to a product made by the same company (Cheribundi). It contains tart cherry juice but no valerian root. I hope this will be better.

A. Please let us know how your experiment works out. There is research supporting the use of tart cherry juice to improve sleep (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Aug. 18, 2022).  In addition, there are reports that some people experience sluggishness the morning after taking valerian.

L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea. Scientists have found that it helps promote restful sleep, although they are still working out the mechanism (Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, March 10, 2023).

Tart Cherry Juice at Bedtime:

Q. I don’t remember now if I read this here or elsewhere but I recently learned that drinking tart cherry juice at bedtime ensures a sound night’s sleep. It works for me and for the friends I have told about it.

A. Thank you for sharing your success story. It is quite possible that you read about cherry juice for insomnia in The People’s Pharmacy. We have been writing about the benefits of cherry juice for years.

One study cited above (American Journal of Therapeutics, March-April 2018) concluded that

“Cherry juice increased sleep time and sleep efficiency.”

Ingredients in Montmorency tart cherry juice reduce inflammation and increase tryptophan levels in the body. That may contribute to its sleep-promoting activity.

Learn More:

You can learn more about cherry juice and other non-drug approaches for overcoming insomnia in our online digital Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep. You might also wish to listen to cherry researchers Glyn Howatson and Malachy McHugh discuss the science on these delicious fruit in Show 1298: The Health Benefits of Tart Cherries.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Halson SL et al, "Optimisation and validation of a nutritional intervention to enhance sleep quality and quantity." Nutrients, Sept. 2020. DOI: 10.3390/nu12092579
  • Losso JN et al, "Pilot study of tart cherry juice for the treatment of insomnia and investigation of mechanisms." American Journal of Therapeutics, March-April, 2018. doi: 10.1097/MJT.0000000000000584
  • Howatson G et al, "Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality." European Journal of Nutrition, Dec. 2012. DOI: 10.1007/s00394-011-0263-7
  • Chung J et al, "Effects of short-term intake of Montmorency tart cherry juice on sleep quality after intermittent exercise in elite female field hockey players: A randomized controlled trial." International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Aug. 18, 2022. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph191610272
  • Wei Y et al, "Recent advances in the utilization of tea active ingredients to regulate sleep through neuroendocrine pathway, immune system and intestinal microbiota." Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, March 10, 2023. DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2022.2048291
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