Having trouble sleeping? Know every crack and spiders web on your ceiling? Fed up of countng sheep? You are not alone. It is thought that about a third of people in the UK will experience bouts of insomnia during their lives. But, if you are partial to a drop of cherry juice then you are in luck. A group of international rearchers have found that by drinking only two glasses of cherry juice, adults were able to rest for an extra 39 minutes longer. This equates to approximately 25 minutes of extra sleep at night and 14 more minutes spent relaxing in bed. They also found they woke less often when in bed compared to when they drank a non-cherry fruit cocktail.
The study, which was carried out at the Northumbria University and has now appeared in the European Journal of Nutrition, took participants and gave them two servings of Montmorency cherry juice concentrate, diluted with half a pint of water, or an alternative fruit drink for seven consecutive days – once when they woke up and another before bed. The participants were also asked to leave out a list of certain food types which are known to contain or influence melatonin. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that is an important key to regulating our sleep/wake cycles.
The participants’ sleep habits were then tracked by the researchers using ‘actigraphs’, (these are watches that sense movement) and also took sleep diaries. The results showed that the healthy adults who had two daily glasses of the juice had longer sleep time, less daytime napping and up to a 6 per cent increase in sleep efficiency. The researchers attribute the sleep benefits to the melatonin content of the red fruit as it was also found that the content of melatonin in their body had grown by upto 15-16%. Not surprising as each serving of the tart cherry juice concentrate was estimated to contain the equivalent of 90 – 100 tart cherries, which ‘significantly elevated’ the level of melatonin in the bodies of the participants. Researcher Jason Ellis said, “When darkness falls, the body produces melatonin to signal it is time to sleep. The juice provides an additional service to what we already have to strengthen the internal signal of the body clock. It would definitely be beneficial to people with jet lag or coming off shift work – anywhere your internal clock has been fighting the external world.”
But it appears that the connection between cherry juice and sleep disorders came about by accident as Dr Glyn Howatson, an exercise physiologist, says, “We were initially interested in the application of tart cherries in recovery from strenuous exercise. Sleep forms a critical component in that recovery process, which is often forgotten. These results show that tart cherry juice concentrate can be used to facilitate sleep in healthy adults and, excitingly, has the potential to be applied as a natural intervention, not only to athletes, but to other populations with insomnia and general disturbed sleep from shift work or jet lag.”
To benefit from the sleep enhancing properties of the cherry juice you should buy the natural sour Montmorency juice and not the ‘drink’ as this contains added water and sugar.