Can Tart Cherry Juice Help You Sleep Better?

Some research has shown that the drink may lead to longer rest with fewer interruptions.

glass of tart cherry juice with cherries in the background

Updated on September 5, 2023.

Having a warm glass of milk before bedtime has long been associated with feeling sleepy and helping you drift off to sleep. But according to some research, sipping tart cherry juice may also help you get better rest.

In one small 2018 study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics, researchers investigated the use of tart cherry juice for insomnia in 11 adults over the age of 50. They found that drinking about 8 ounces of tart cherry juice twice a day helped participants sleep for 84 minutes longer on average. Drinking tart cherry juice was also associated with improved sleep efficiency, which is the ratio of the total amount of time one spends sleeping compared to the amount of time one spends in bed.

The study participants sipped Montmorency tart cherry juice in the morning and then again about one to two hours before bedtime for two weeks. Montmorency cherries are a variety of sour cherries.

Although the Cherry Marketing Institute provided the cherry juice used in the study and helped fund the research, the organization (which is affiliated with the United States tart cherry industry) had no influence over the study design.

Melatonin in a glass?

Some researchers have speculated that the sleep-promoting effect of tart cherry juice may have to do with its chemical content.

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain that helps regulate sleep. But it can also be found in some plant sources, including cherries. Previous research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has shown Montmorency tart cherries to be six times higher in melatonin than other types of cherries. Tart cherries are also loaded with certain anti-inflammatory chemicals called cytokines that are thought to regulate the sleep-wake cycle.

Another 2022 study, published in the International Journal for Environmental Research and Public Health, investigated the use of Montmorency tart cherry juice in 19 female field hockey players. Despite containing high levels of melatonin, drinking tart cherry juice did not actually increase melatonin levels in the participants. Tart cherry juice was, however, linked to improved sleep quality in terms of greater sleep efficiency, fewer and shorter awakenings after going to sleep, and less movement during sleep. 

It may work for some, but not for all

Despite some promising results, other research has shown mixed results on the use of tart cherry juice to improve sleep. One study of 44 healthy adults published in July 2022 in Nutrition and Health found no differences in sleep length or quality in those who consumed tart cherry juice or capsules compared to those taking a placebo, despite subjects using roughly the same amount of tart cherry juice as used in previous studies. 

More research is needed to confirm the effects of tart cherry juice for sleep and why it might be beneficial. It may be that the melatonin content of tart cherry juice doesn’t fully explain its effect on sleep. For example, tart cherry juice is also rich in an antioxidant chemical called procyanidin B-2, which may increase the body’s ability to use the amino acid tryptophan to create serotonin, a chemical messenger in the brain that’s crucial for sleep.

There is also a need for more research to determine what form of tart cherry juice might work best for promoting sleep, whether drinking juice from concentrate or eating whole cherries.

If you do decide to try sipping tart cherry juice daily to help set yourself up for a better night’s sleep, keep in mind that sweetened varieties will add more calories to your diet. 

Article sources open article sources

Losso JN, Finley JW, Karki N, et al. Pilot Study of the Tart Cherry Juice for the Treatment of Insomnia and Investigation of Mechanisms. Am J Ther. 2018;25(2):e194-e201.
Burkhardt S, Tan DX, Manchester LC, et al. Detection and quantification of the antioxidant melatonin in Montmorency and Balaton tart cherries (Prunus cerasus). J Agric Food Chem. 2001;49(10):4898-4902.
Chung J, Choi M, Lee K. Effects of Short-Term Intake of Montmorency Tart Cherry Juice on Sleep Quality after Intermittent Exercise in Elite Female Field Hockey Players: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(16):10272. Published 2022 Aug 18.
Hillman AR, Trickett O, Brodsky C, et al. Montmorency tart cherry supplementation does not impact sleep, body composition, cellular health, or blood pressure in healthy adults [published online ahead of print, 2022 Jul 5]. Nutr Health. 2022;2601060221111230.
Reed DL, Sacco WP. Measuring Sleep Efficiency: What Should the Denominator Be?. J Clin Sleep Med. 2016;12(2):263-266.
MedlinePlus. Tryptophan. Review Date February 4, 2022.
Cleveland Clinic. Serotonin. Last reviewed March 18, 2022.

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