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You’ll also find vitamin A, vitamin C and magnesium in cherries, making it a good option to incorporate into your diet.
But before you down a bowl of cherries, registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD, explains how to consume them and the other benefits of the superfood.
How cherries help with sleep
If you’re experiencing insomnia lately, it turns out you’re not alone. Insomnia affects millions of people.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that 33% of adults experience brief periods of insomnia and that 10% of adults have chronic insomnia (three times a week for over three months) that affects their ability to function during the daytime.
Tart cherries can aid sleep by increasing the amount of melatonin, a sleep hormone. Melatonin, which is produced naturally in your body by your brain’s pineal gland and can be taken as a supplement, partially controls your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
Tart cherries have a small amount of both melatonin and tryptophan, an amino acid used in production of serotonin and melatonin.
“Because tart cherries have different enzymes in them, they actually keep the tryptophan in the body longer,” says Czerwony. “So it not only does it get you to sleep sooner, but it keeps you asleep for longer.”
But not all cherries are created equal. Research shows Montmorency cherries, known for their tart and sour taste, contain high amounts of natural melatonin. Montmorency cherries fall into the tart cherry category and are different from popular cherry varieties such as Rainer and Bing cherries.
Other health benefits of cherries
Cherries are full of antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C and are a great source of fiber. Beyond helping you catch your ZZZs, they may offer other health benefits like:
- Reduces muscle soreness.
- Reduces inflammation.
- Improves brain function.
- Strengthens immune system.
- Aids in weight management.
- Protects the heart and cardiovascular system.
To help with sleep, Czerwony suggests eating cherries about an hour before bed. You can either drink tart cherry juice, which can be found at most grocers, or eat the fruit whole, which may be harder to find fresh but is often frozen or dried.
“If you’re using juice, make sure it’s unsweetened juice without added sugar,” says Czerwony.
People who take blood thinners or other medications should talk to their doctor before adding tart cherries to their diet.
When it comes to how much to drink or eat, Czerwony suggests starting off with about a serving — 4 ounces of juice or ½ cup of fruit. The amount of cherries needed to help with sleep hasn’t been studied and it can affect everyone differently.
“You need to experiment with it yourself,” says Czerwony. “Try a small amount for a few nights and see how you respond and then you can increase a little each night.”