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Study Suggests Tart Cherry Juice May Help Combat Insomnia

Many people turn to pharmaceuticals for help when they can't fall asleep, but did you know that there are natural solutions for insomnia? A recent study from Northumbria University in the United Kingdom suggests that cherry juice may have enough melatonin - the hormone that regulates sleep - to improve quantity and quality of sleep.

The study was published online ahead of print in the European Journal of Nutrition on October 30, 2011.

The small scale, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study included 20 adults who were instructed to consume either 30 ml of tart cherry juice or a placebo daily for 7 days. The researchers collected urine samples every 48 hours and tested for markers of melatonin.

They also required that the volunteers keep a diary of their sleep activities and wear actigraphy watch sensors. Actigraphy is an internationally accepted way of recording sleep habits by monitoring movement while you are sleeping.

At the end of the week, the researchers noted higher levels of melatonin in the urine of the cherry group (up to 16% higher) when compared to the placebo group. The cherry group also reported fewer naps both compared to their normal sleep schedules and compared to the placebo group.

Additionally, the actigraphy measures showed an increase of 25 minutes total sleep time and a 5-6% increase in sleep efficiency. Sleep efficiency is the ratio of how much time you spend in bed to how much time you are actually sleeping.

The researchers stated that more research is needed in order to determine definitively that the melatonin in the cherry juice produced these results. But, based on previous studies and this one, they are fairly certain that tart cherry juice concentrate can be useful as a sleep aid.

Tart cherries have many phytochemicals and a high level of antioxidants. They have been linked with reducing inflammation, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, and lowering the risks of certain cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and diabetes.

If you want to consume tart cherry extract for the health benefits, be sure it is tested for potency. This is especially important if you're drinking tart cherry juice, as some juices may be watered down and not contain much tart cherry.

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