Louisiana State University researchers have discovered that drinking tart cherry juice gives senior citizens who suffer from insomnia an extra hour of sleep per night. The study was small, but the results could be profound for those seniors who battle insomnia. Lack of sleep affects the nervous system and has a deleterious effect on the overall health of anybody who is a chronic insomniac.
Some 35 percent of people over the age of 65 suffer from insomnia. Drinking Montmorency tart cherry juice in the mornings and evenings enabled seniors to sleep an extra 60 to 90 minutes per night according to a new study by Experimental Biology 2014. The results of the study were presented at the yearly meeting of the American Society of Nutrition in San Diego.
The elderly are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of insomnia, which is defined as an inability to sleep through the night for three nights per week. It can cause high blood pressure, chronic pain, dementia and even type 2 diabetes. Sleep medications can help, but sleeping pills quadruple the risk of falling for seniors. Many people consider that side effect to be as bad as or worse than insomnia. Older folks can suffer a decline in their quality of life or debilitating conditions like broken hips or even an earlier death from falling.
During the study, seven adults over 65 drank 8 ounces of tart cherry juice for 14 days. They followed that with a 14-day “washout period”, which was followed by drinking a placebo beverage for 14 days. Their sleep was monitored with polysomnography, which evaluated the quality of their sleep, including how long it took them to fall asleep and the length of their sleep. The subjects were questioned regarding depression, anxiety and their general level of fatigue. Blood tests were also given to each participant.
The results showed that drinking the tart cherry juice increased the subjects’ sleep by an average of 84 minutes per night, and their sleep was more beneficial. Montmorency tart cherries are packed with the hormone melatonin, which aids in regulating sleep cycles. However, the researchers also believe that the red pigmentation of the cherry juice increases the presence of tryptophan, which is an amino acid that decreases insomnia. Degraded tryptophan is known to cause insomnia. The cherry juice prevents the breakdown of tryptophan, so it is more readily available for serotonin synthesis. More serotonin results in more sleep, a better mood and decreased inflammation.
The study suggests that drinking 8 ounces of tart cherry juice in the morning and evening is an effective holistic approach to treating insomnia. The unique combination of melatonin and tryptophan found in Montmorency tart cherries seems to contribute to a better night’s sleep, which is something we all could use.