Give your box of chamomile a rest. New research presented at the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting finds drinking tart cherry juice twice a day can help you sleep nearly 90 more minutes a night.
Researchers from Louisiana State University had seven older adults with insomnia drink eight ounces of Montmorency tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks, followed by two weeks of no juice, and then two more weeks of drinking a placebo beverage. Compared to the placebo, drinking the cherry juice resulted in an average of 84 more minutes of sleep time each night.
Insomnia is a common health problem among older adults, impacting an estimated 23 to 34 percent of the population ages 65 and older. Insomnia – defined as trouble sleeping on average more than three nights per week – can be an annoyance for some, but long-lasting sleeplessness can seriously affect health, especially in the elderly.
Cherry juice is a natural source of the sleep-wake cycle hormone melatonin and amino acid tryptophan, says study coauthor Frank L. Greenway, director of the outpatient research clinic at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at LSU. “Proanthocyanidins, or the ruby red pigments in tart cherry juice, contain an enzyme that reduces inflammation and decreases the breakdown of tryptophan, letting it go to work longer in your body,” he says. Montmorency cherries are particularly high in those compounds. (The study was funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute, but the group had no role in the study design or outcome.)
Greenway estimates that up to one-third of American adults over age 65 have insomnia, which is defined as having trouble sleeping more than three nights per week. He believes cherry juice is a safer way to improve sleep quality than going the pharmaceutical route, given the lack of side effects. “Sleeping pills in the elderly are associated with a 4-fold increase in the prevalence of falls which, at that age, can result in fractures that require surgery,” he explains.
Not a cherry juice fan? Try kiwi. Eating two kiwi fruits an hour before bed was shown to increase sleep time by 13% and decrease mid-sleep waking periods by 29% after just four weeks, finds a recent Chinese study. Or incorporate seaweed into your dinner; the ocean vegetable is high in omega-3 DHA, which helped children get an extra full hour of sleep, according to a recent University of Oxford study.