The solution to the slumber you are seeking may just come in the form of a specific type of cherry.
A new trend of drinking tart cherry juice before bed is being hailed on social media as a cure for insomnia in both adults and children.
In a video with nearly two million views, TikTok user @missalanablack said she didn’t wake up once in the middle of the night after trying the drink for the first time.
“Why didn’t I know about cherry juice earlier?” she said in the video. “I have taken so many supplements to help me go to sleep, help me stay asleep. … All I needed was some cherry juice.”
The hashtag, #tartcherryjuice, now has over 33 million views on TikTok with users declaring that the drink serves as a natural sleeping aid.
But is there any merit to this claim? TODAY.com spoke with experts to learn the sweet and the sour of this viral TikTok sensation.
Does tart cherry juice help with sleep?
Tart cherries contain melatonin and tryptophan, both of which help with sleep because they increase the amount of melatonin in the body, according to Cleveland Clinic. Tryptophan is an amino acid that’s involved in the production of melatonin, which is a hormone that helps manage your sleep-wake cycle.
“It makes sense that (tart cherry juice) would improve one’s sleep based on the fact that it has tryptophan in it,” Sleep consultant Kelly Murray tells TODAY.com.
Tart cherries can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer, the Cleveland Clinic noted.
Research into the impact of tart cherry juice for sleep backs up this assertion, as well.
A 2012 study of 20 healthy adult volunteers looked at how sleep patterns changed for those who drank 1 ounce (about 30 milliliters) of tart cherry juice concentrate 30 minutes before their evening meal for seven days. Tart cherry juice drinks saw “significantly elevated” melatonin levels compared to their baseline and those in the placebo group, as well as increased sleep time and sleep efficiency (the percent of time in bed where a person is sleeping).
“What the researchers found is there were higher levels of melatonin secretion in those that were consuming tart cherry juice, which is interesting,” Rebecca Robbins, Ph.D., instructor at Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, tells TODAY.com
Another study from 2018 of eight participants over 50 years old with chronic insomnia found that those who drank about 1 cup (240 milliliters) of tart cherry juice in the morning and another cup one to two hours before bed for two weeks saw their sleep time increase by 84 minutes.
Is tart cherry juice the same as melatonin?
While tart cherries contain melatonin and can boost the body’s melatonin production, tart cherries are not the same as the hormone melatonin or a melatonin dietary supplement.
Melatonin itself is “a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness,” according to the National Institutes of Health. Melatonin dietary supplements are usually taken orally and can be made from animals, microorganisms or synthetically.
Tart cherries, which are known to fight inflammation and boost the immune system, might also pack the same punch as melatonin, Bonnie Taub-Dix, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label to Table, tells TODAY.com.
That said, she worries about one component of tart cherry juice that melatonin supplements don’t have: a high concentration of sugar, which can have negative effects on blood sugar levels, particularly in those who have diabetes.
Should you try tart cherry juice for sleep?
Experts agree that tart cherry juice could be worth trying as a natural sleep aid — but only after checking with your doctor.
If you do try drinking tart cherry juice, select a brand that doesn’t have added sugar, Taub-Dix advises. Cleveland Clinic also suggested trying Montmorency cherries in particular.
Taub-Dix adds that drinking tart cherry juice alone could raise your blood sugar more quickly than when you combine it with other foods, so she recommends combining it with other foods that can induce sleep, such as cheese, high in tryptophan, or almonds, high in melatonin.
“Not only will you be calming down the effect of the juice in terms of your blood sugar because having it with cheese or almonds helps to slow down the effect of the blood sugar rise, but that could also boost your ability to fall asleep, as well,” she says.
Robbins adds that drinking tart cherry juice may be something to consider if you are experiencing mild sleep difficulties and are open to a natural remedy, but it should be part of a larger picture of healthy sleeping habits.
“It could be viewed as a part of a healthy routine, particularly if you’re thinking about substituting tart cherry juice for something that would disrupt your sleep, like alcohol,” Robbins says. “I see it being a really good choice especially in that case.”
Consuming tart cherry juice, however, is not a panacea, she says. The drink will not immediately put you to sleep, and it will not rectify significant difficulties falling asleep or maintaining sleep.
Instead, you should speak with your healthcare provider for a more sustainable long-term solution, Robbins advises.
Is tart cherry juice a good sleep aid for kids?
Despite what some users on TikTok claim, experts tell TODAY.com that they caution parents against giving children a bottle of tart cherry juice before bed.
The sugar in tart cherry juice can give children (and adults) a burst of energy and an adrenaline rush before sleep, which can stimulate children rather than calm them down, Taub-Dix explains.
“I don’t think I would use that tactic with kids,” she says. Instead, “I would probably just be sure that two hours before bed, I would try to discard screens, as opposed to pushing tart cherry juice.”
If your child is struggling with sleep issues, Murray also suggests modifying behaviors rather than having them consume tart cherry juice. Encouraging independence so that they are able to fall asleep on their own throughout the night is important, she adds.
What are other sleep strategies?
People often think about sleep in oversimplified terms, but it involves more than just tucking ourselves into bed, Robbins says.
The nighttime routine is a critical part of our ability to fall into a deep sleep that will allow us to wake up and feel restored, she adds: “The chances of (deep sleep) are the highest when we really focus on the constellation of things that surround our sleep, and things that impact our sleep sometimes aren’t always widely known.”
Avoiding screens that emit blue light close to bedtime, not eating at least 90 minutes before sleeping and practicing mindfulness routines are some strategies Robbins recommends for better sleep.
And while the experts do think it’s a good thing that TikTok users are talking about sleep habits, it is important to remember that some trends might not be based on science.
“Taking recommendations that you see online with a grain of salt can help you avoid any issues,” Robbins says.
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