You're trying to sleep, but your mind is far from it. As frustrating as it is, it's something we all experience. And while you're reliving every social interaction you’ve ever had and planning your entire future at 2 am, you might be thinking of all those sleep hacks on TikTok. Like drinking tart cherry juice. We called up Rebecca Robbins, sleep researcher and co-author of “Sleep for Success,” to see if all the rumors are true.
Rebecca Robbins, PhD, author of “Sleep for Success,” is an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and an associate scientist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital where her research focuses on sleep and circadian rhythms.
Tell me straight. Does tart cherry juice help you sleep?
It can, but it’s not likely to make a huge difference, said Robbins. The reason it's billed as a supposed sleep remedy is because tart cherries are naturally rich in melatonin — a hormone that helps you sleep. But Robbins pointed out that the effect is likely to be very mild. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
That’s not to say tart cherry juice can’t help at all. Some small studies showed that it can, in fact, help improve sleep. And Robbins said it may help “when taken in moderation, combined with healthy sleep strategies.” (Which we’ll get into in a bit.) But if you’re still doomscrolling late at night or drinking caffeine after 3 pm, tart cherry juice alone won’t send you to dreamland.
When is the best time to take tart cherry juice? And how much should I drink?
If you want to give tart cherry juice a try, the Sleep Foundation recommends drinking up to 16 ounces of tart cherry juice after dinner. And feel free to do that every night as needed. If you haven’t noticed any changes to your sleep quality after a couple weeks, it might be time to try a new method.
Pro tip: You may want to look for a low- or sugar-free juice, because the sugar may interfere with your sleep.
Are there any other benefits of tart cherry juice?
There sure are. On top of being generally full of nutrients like vitamin C and potassium, tart cherry juice is said to promote brain health, strengthen your immune system, reduce high blood pressure, help muscle soreness, and reduce inflammation. Go off, cherries.
Any tart cherry juice warnings I should know about?
Tart cherry juice is considered safe for most people. But some might have a reaction to the type of sugar alcohol in tart cherries called sorbitol, which can cause stomach aches or diarrhea. Not ideal. Tart cherries also contain quercetin, a substance found in some plants that may interfere with certain blood thinner medications. Worried about any of this? Make sure to ask your doctor before testing out this sleep hack.
Good to know. Is there anything else I can try for better sleep?
Make sure your sleep habits are up-to-code. Meaning: Close Instagram at night, avoid working from your bed, and stick to a bedtime routine. “It’s not sexy,” said Robbins. But “it's these small little routines” that can make a difference.
If you’ve tried everything and quality sleep (read: seven to nine hours a night) just isn’t happening, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor, Robbins said. They may be able to help find out what’s preventing your sleep and treat the issue.
Note: If you’re thinking, “Can’t I just take melatonin supplements?” Think again. Robbins said they should be a last resort. Despite what else you might see on TikTok, there’s not enough evidence to prove that melatonin supplements are safe to use long-term. And it may be more beneficial for adjusting your sleep schedule, said Robbins, rather than overcoming insomnia. Like if you’re jet-lagged or do shift work.
Struggling to fall asleep isn’t fun. And not getting enough Zzz’s each night can seriously impact your mental and physical health. So adding tart cherry juice to your grocery list might not be a bad option. But don’t forget to practice other good sleep habits. Otherwise, expect many more staring contests with your ceiling fan to come.
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