Having trouble falling asleep? You're definitely not the only one. But there's a new strategy you might want to try before you revert back to your Netflix therapy: Drinking cherry juice before bed is, apparently, helping people sleep over an hour longer per night, according to a new study.
The research, which was published in the American Journal of Therapeutics, focused on cases of insomnia in elderly participants. Half the individuals in the study were given a placebo juice before going to sleep, while the other half were given cherry juice to drink before bed.
The results were pretty mind-blowing: Those who drank cherry juice prior to bed slept an average of 84 minutes more a night than those who drank the placebo juice. What's more is that the participants who drank cherry juice also increased their sleep efficiency, which is the percentage of total time in bed actually spent sleeping. In other words, not only did the people who drank cherry juice sleep for a longer period of time, but they actually fell asleep more quickly, too.
So what's the deal with cherry juice emerging as our new miracle drink? (And does anyone already drink cherry juice regularly to begin with? More importantly, how do they stomach that tart, face-puckering taste?)
Cherry juice contains compounds that inhibit the types of chemicals that keep us from getting a good night's sleep.
More specifically, cherry juice inhibits IDO, an enzyme that regulates and limits tryptophan, a mood regulator that helps us sleep.
The study also found that cherry juice reduces levels of kynurenine in the blood, which is linked to sleep deprivation, according to The Independent. Basically, drinking cherry juice before you hit the hay makes it much, much easier for you to fall asleep without some of the often inevitable chemical whiplash that can keep you awake.
Cherry juice might be your new best friend for sleep, but it's also beneficial for your body in other ways.
It works as a post-recovery drink, boosts your immune system, and reduces inflammation and swelling in joints, all thanks to the plentiful antioxidants that are packed in the beverage. Plus, cherry juice contains 10 percent of your daily potassium intake, which is pretty cool, too.
I can actually sort of attest to some of these benefits: When I was rowing in college, we were required to drink cherry juice after our anaerobic workouts as a way to reduce the immediate inflammation in our muscles and joints. I can't say that I remember it working in any significant way, but I also can't say that, at the time, I was focusing on anything but remembering how to breathe after our most intense workouts. However, I definitely didn't have any joint issues, and neither did almost any of the people on my team, so I'd say that counts for something.
Here's the thing, though: Not all cherry juice is created equal, at least when it comes to helping you fall asleep.
By the time most juices get processed and packaged, they can be entirely diluted into cartons of water and sugar. The sleep study we're talking about here specifically used Montmorency tart cherry juice, which is made from 100 percent juice concentrate.
When it comes to drinking juice (or anything, for that matter) before bed, the less sugar you consume, the better. Trust me, sugar won't do you any favors for helping you achieve a sound and restful sleep.
In fact, any sort of juice with high amounts of processed sugar will probably keep you from sleeping. Consuming sugar delays the release of melatonin in your body, which is the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle and helps you achieve deeper sleep.
So before you go out and buy a 12-pack of cherry juice, make sure you read the label and know what exactly is in the drink you're planning to guzzle in bulk before bed. The label should confirm that the drink is made of 100 percent fruit juice, and if you read "high fructose corn syrup" at any point in the ingredients list, do yourself a favor and throw the carton back on the shelf.