A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study reported recently in the American Journal of Therapeutics found that drinking Montmorency tart cherry juice extended sleep time by an average of 84 minutes in older patients with insomnia.
“Insomnia is quite common among older adults and it can lead to a range of health issues if left untreated,” observed lead researcher Jack Losso, who is a professor in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge. “However, many people are hesitant to resort to medications to help them sleep. That’s why natural sleep remedies are increasingly of interest and in demand.”
The crossover study randomized 8 insomniacs aged 50 years and older to receive 2 weeks of tart cherry juice or 2 weeks of a similar-tasting placebo consumed each morning and 1-2 hours before bedtime, followed by a 2-week period during which treatments were switched. Sleep questionnaires were completed by the participants at the beginning of the study and at the end of each 2-week treatment period.
At the conclusion of each treatment period, overnight polysomnography confirmed an extra 84 minutes of sleep among those who received 2 weeks of tart cherry juice. Additionally, questionnaire responses following cherry juice consumption reported increased sleep efficiency. Those who received tart cherry juice experienced a decrease in prostaglandin E2 (PGE2, associated with inflammation) and serum kynurenine-to-tryptophan ratio, indicating increased tryptophan availability. (The amino acid L-tryptophan is known to help improve sleep when consumed before bedtime.)
The researchers determined that tart cherry juice procyanidin B-2 inhibited serum indoleanmine 2,3-dioxygenase, which explains, in part, the ability of the fruit to improve sleep efficiency. The pilot study’s results will form the basis for a larger clinical trial.