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Sleep better with cherries

In 2005 sports scientists at the University of Vermont studied the anticatabolic effect of cherry juice on strength athletes. During that experiment, the subjects reported that they slept better as a result of the cherry juice. A study published recently in the Journal of medicinal Food has now confirmed this: cherries improve the quality of sleep.

Cherries are packed with anti-inflammatory polyphenols, like the anthocyanins cyanidin 3-glucosylrutinoside and cyanidin 3-rutinoside. Studies have shown that these substances speed up the recovery of runners' leg muscles after a marathon and strength athletes' biceps after an eccentric workout. [Br J Sports Med. 2006 Aug; 40(8): 679-83.] CherryPharm, a producer of cherry juice concentrate commissioned all these studies.

Sleep better with cherries
The same manufacturer also paid for the research described in this article.

In the experiment 15 men and women with sleep problems, all aged over 65, were given two glasses containing 240 ml cherry juice every day for two weeks. The subjects drank one glass at 10 o'clock in the morning and the other at 10 o'clock in the evening.

During another two-week period the subjects were given a placebo.

In the table below ISI stands for Insomnia Severity Index. The higher this is, the greater your sleep problems. A score of 15 means you're hovering between modest and serious problems.

SL stands for sleep-onset latency, the amount of time you take to fall asleep. WASO stands for wake after sleep onset, the amount of time you lie awake at night between periods of sleep. TST stands for total sleep time, and SE for sleep efficiency – the percentage of time that you are actually asleep of the time spent in bed.

Sleep better with cherries

The asterisks indicate the statistically significant effects. The more asterisks, the stronger the effect.

A statistically significant effect doesn't actually mean that you'll necessarily notice anything, however. The researchers' conclusion from their study is that cherry juice has "modest beneficial effects on sleep in older adults with insomnia".

CherryPharm is expensive stuff. And that's not surprising: the manufacturer claims that a 240 ml glass contains the equivalent of 50 cherries. If you want to sleep better but don’t feel like spending lots of money on expensive – and carbohydrate-rich – cherry juice, there's a cheap and cheerful alternative: good old melatonin.

And this is not just pie in the sky. Melatonin may well be the active ingredient in cherry juice, although CherryPharm hasn't studied this. "Given that several pro-inflammatory cytokines are involved in the regulation of sleep, the anti-inflammatory properties of tart cherries may be a mechanism of action", the researchers write. But, in addition to anti-inflammatory phenols, you also find relatively large quantities of tryptophan, serotonin and melatonin. So if you are taking CherryPharm and sleeping better, it's probably because of these latter substances.

J Med Food. 2010 Jun; 13(3): 579-83.

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