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New study shows the effectiveness of tart cherries in alleviating insomnia

Montmorency tart cherries.
Montmorency tart cherries.

A new study presented earlier this week at the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting showed that drinking tart cherry juice once in the morning and once in the evening will help you sleep better. The study was done by the researchers from Louisiana State University and found that drinking specifically Montmorency tart cherry juice every day for two weeks helps adults to sleep at least 90 minutes more each night. Presented at the “Dietary Bioactive Components: Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Effects of Dietary Bioactive Components” section of the annual meeting of the American Society of Nutrition, the study has been submitted for publication in a peer reviewed journal.

Over 48% of Americans report suffering from insomnia occasionally and at least 22% of Americans report suffering from insomnia almost every night. Women are 1.3 times more likely to suffer from insomnia than men. But what causes insomnia? Insomnia can be caused by several different reasons ranging from medications like antihistamines and beta blockers to diseases like lupus and fibromyalgia to sleep disorders like sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.

Loss of sleep doesn't just mean feeling tired through out the day. Chronic or long term insomnia can cause depression, heart disease and lack of quality of living. It is also linked to a higher prevalence of chronic pain, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and a decline of cognitive function, or dementia. Adults over the age of 65 make up about 23%-34% of the population that suffers from insomnia. On average adults over the age of 18 need at least 7-9 hours of sleep but in a Gallup study that was done in 2013, it showed that adults are getting at least 40% less sleep, roughly about 6.8 hours a night (Source: Gallup).

Individuals with insomnia may turn to sleeping pills but sleeping pills have bee found to increase risk of falls in the elderly – which makes it increasingly important to find more natural sleep-aids without these apparent side effects, said co-author Frank L. Greenway, MD, director of the outpatient research clinic at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University.

“Sleeping pills may be an option for younger insomniacs, but for older people these medications quadruple the risk of falling, which can lead to broken hips and, often, earlier death,” Greenway said.

In a clinical trial conducted by Dr. Greenway and his collegues at the Reaserch Center at the Louisiana State University seven adults with an average age of 68 were tested to see the benefits of Montmorency tart cherry juice. In the study the insomniacs consumed 8 oz of tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks. After the two week period was up the participants went through a wash out pahase and then proceeded to take 8 oz of placebo twice dauly. In a controlled setting their sleep patterns were monitored using overnight polysomnography to evaluate sleep efficiency, such as sleep onset and duration. Along with the sleep study the aprticipants also filled out questionnaires reagrding their ailments/sypmtoms in reagards to insomnia as well as blood tests were drwan.

At the end of the trial, it was found that those who drank the Montmorency tart cherry juice slept better thanm when on the placebo averaging a little over an hour more each night. Although previous studies had shown that drinking tart cherry juice had sleep enhancing benefits the research team set out to explain why this happens. Montmorency tart cherries are know to be a natural source of melatonin which is a hormone that helps to regualte the sleep cylce. In conjunction with the melatonin, Montmorency tart cherries attribute their bright red color to proanthocyanidins. Proanthocyanidins (condensed tannins) have an antioxidant property and helps to increase the activity of other antioxidants. In Montemorency tart cherries that refers to tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and a precursor to serotonin that helps with sleep. Also the tart cherry juice prohibits certain enzymes namely indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase from tearing away at the tryptophan which in turn can causes insomnia as well as inflammation in the body. Together with his collegues, Dr. Greenway believes its that unique combination of melatonin and tryptophan that can contribute to better sleep at night.

“Even though the amount of tryptophan in tart cherry juice is smaller than a normal dose given to aid sleep, the compounds in tart cherries could prevent the tryptophan from breaking down so it’s able to work in the body more effectively,” Greenway explained. “These compounds may help to improve tryptophan bioavailability for serotonin synthesis, which could have a positive effect on sleep. Increasing serotonin also helps improve mood and decrease inflammation.”

Now adult insomnia suffers have a safer alternative to reaching for sleeping pills. Instead with just two 8 oz glasses of tart cherry juice, once in the morning and once in the evening, you can sleep better and get that restful night sleep you so desire.

(Soruce: Liu AG, Tipton RC, Pan W, Finley JW, Prudente A, Karki N, Losso JN, Greenway FL. Tart Cherry Juice Increases Sleep Time in Older Adults with Insomnia. Experimental Biology 2014. San Diego, CA. April 28, 2014. )

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