Instead of valerian: fruit juice can help you fall asleep

cherry juice to fall asleep
Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / AlamaCreative

People who suffer from insomnia often turn to valerian. According to studies, another option is to drink cherry juice to help you fall asleep. You can read what the recommendation is here.

Anyone who wants to use herbal remedies to help with sleep problems will probably first turn to preparations containing valerian. Another alternative could be sour cherries. Because this stone fruit contains small amounts of melatonin, cherry juice is said to be suitable as a sleep aid.

Cherry juice to help you sleep: This is what studies say

Cherry juice is said to help you fall asleep quickly.
Cherry juice is said to help you fall asleep quickly.
(Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / 931527)

Sour cherries (especially Montmorency cherries) contain the sleep hormone melatonin, which controls the so-called circadian rhythm, i.e. the human day-night rhythm. On the other hand, the fruits also contain tryptophan. This is an amino acid that is needed for the production of serotonin and melatonin in the body. Therefore, cherry juice from sour cherries is said to not only help you fall asleep, but also increase the length of sleep.

Nutritionist Beth Czerwony confirms this in an article from the American Cleveland Clinic: “Because tart cherries contain different enzymes, they actually keep the tryptophan in the body longer. This not only helps you fall asleep faster, but also sleep longer.”

Several studies have examined how tart cherry juice can affect sleep:

  • A 2010 study examined how 15 elderly people with chronic insomnia changed their sleep after they first took a tart cherry juice mixture for two weeks and then (after a two-week break) a placebo for two weeks. Compared to the placebo, the drink significantly reduced insomnia (reduced minutes awake after sleep onset). No such improvements were seen in sleep latency (the time it takes to actually fall asleep), total sleep time, or sleep efficiency compared to the placebo. The authors of the study conclude that the tart cherry juice concentrate may be as effective or even slightly more effective than valerian. Nevertheless, the effect of tart cherry juice is significantly less than that of the evidence-based treatment of insomnia with sleeping pills.
  • In another study from 2012, 20 participants consumed either tart cherry juice or a placebo for a week. Total sleep time and overall sleep efficiency were noticeably increased with cherry juice supplementation. According to the study authors, this suggests that tart cherry juice concentrate improves sleep duration and quality and could be useful in treating sleep disorders.
  • In a 2018 study, eight subjects with insomnia initially took 240 milliliters of cherry juice twice a day for two weeks and – after a two-week break – a placebo for two weeks. The study concluded that cherry juice can increase sleep duration by an average of 84 minutes and improve sleep efficiency.

Cherry juice to help you sleep: Unfortunately, it’s just wishful thinking

Even with insomnia, not everyone benefits from additional melatonin.
Even with insomnia, not everyone benefits from additional melatonin.
(Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / Mylene2401)

Although these and other studies sound promising, the consumer advice center considers them to be inconclusive. The reason for this is the inconsistent implementation: Depending on the study, the effect of sour cherry juice mixtures, sour cherry concentrate or fresh sour cherry juice was examined. Therefore, no clear recommendations on the type of sour cherry preparation, dosage and duration of use can be derived from the studies.

It is also important to know that, according to Quarks, a melatonin level that is too low can cause sleep disorders, but it does not have to. In addition, melatonin is quickly broken down in the liver. In principle, experts therefore consider the effect of melatonin as an alternative sleeping aid to be overestimated: the effects of artificial melatonin on sleep are small. Ingo Fietze, head of the Interdisciplinary Sleep Medicine Center at the Berlin Charité, explains in the Quarks article: “Among the substances that promote sleep, melatonin is a very weak agent.” If you have a normal melatonin level in the evening, you will not benefit at all from additional melatonin.

By the way: Other foods also contain melatonin, for example pistachios, goji berries, oatmeal or mushrooms. But here too, the amounts are so small that, according to a study (2020), it is wishful thinking to expect them to have an influence on sleep.

Cherry juice for falling asleep in a self-experiment

In a self-experiment, the author of a wellness and lifestyle website consumed 60 milliliters of sour cherry juice one hour before going to bed for two weeks – significantly less than the 240 milliliters that one of the studies mentioned above administered to test subjects. Nevertheless, the author was able to determine that her sleep was relatively consistent and undisturbed during this time. But she cannot say whether it was the sour cherry juice. Her sleep problems were also related to unhealthy habits shortly before going to bed, which she also gave up during the test period (keyword: “bedtime procrastination”).

If you want to try cherry juice to help you sleep, make sure you use unsweetened juices, preferably organic. This way you avoid unwanted preservatives, colorings, artificial flavors and added vitamins, as well as the use of chemical-synthetic pesticides.

Conclusion: Sour cherry juice is relatively safe as a sleep aid and cheaper than expensive melatonin preparations. However, its effect is probably very low or non-existent. If you suffer from sleep problems, it is better to have them checked and treated by a doctor.

Read more on Techzle\.com:

  • Sleep better: These 6 tips can help
  • Natural sleeping pills: These 4 will help you fall asleep
  • Monkey Mind: This stops the thought carousel when falling asleep

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