Cherries: The Natural Sleep Aid

Cherries are the best and the only natural source of melatonin, a chemical that regulates our bodies’ internal clock. People who suffer from insomnia or jet lag can find the consumption of cherries surprisingly effective!

What melatonin is and how it works

Melatonin is a natural chemical of our bodies. To be precise, melatonin is a hormone which is produced in the pineal gland in our brain. This hormone is also known as the ”Dracula Hormone” for a very simple reason…it is produced only at night! The pineal gland appears to be inactive during day time and it is activated when the natural light outside turns dark.

The mechanism is simple. When our visual sensors, our eyes, detect the dim light outside, they send a signal to the pineal gland. The pineal gland receives this message as ”time for rest” and starts the production of melatonin. Soon after, melatonin starts flowing in our blood stream and then in our organs. All body’s functionalities start to slow down (heart beats, breathing, everything), our energy levels drop significantly until we fall asleep. Normally, melatonin remains in our blood for about 12 hours to give our bodies enough time to rest and to our brain enough time to process information and produce other important chemicals.

By having the electronic devices (tv, laptop, tablet, smartphone) on in the room you sleep, you automatically minimize the production of melatonin, since your eyes still get enough light to keep you awake.

When you have a routine bed time, for example every night you go to bed at 10 and wake up at 7 in the morning, you help melatonin regulate your internal clock by setting the sleep time at 10pm-7am.  The opposite happens when your sleep time differs from night to night. For example, the one night you sleep at 10, the next at 11, the next at 1am, etc. This way you disorganize your internal clock and your body cannot set a specific ‘rest time’.

Cherries are the only natural source of melatonin!

Cherries are considered as superfood as they are full in antioxidants. According to WebMD, sweet cherries rank in position #15 as the fruits with the highest concentration in antioxidants (1 cup = 4.873). This is particularly beneficial for your overall state of health, since antioxidants ”attack” the free radicals caused by the oxidative stress.

However, cherries are popular for their ability to improve the quality and duration of sleep by enhancing the production of the levels of melatonin in human brain. 20 volunteers took part in a trial that examined the effect of tart cherry juice on melatonin levels and the quality of sleep. Half of the volunteers consumed cherry juice concentrated and the others took placebo. The trial lasted for 7 days and the melatonin levels were collected through urine samples 48 hours after the last consumption.

RESULTS:

Total melatonin content was significantly elevated (P < 0.05) in the cherry juice group, whilst no differences were shown between baseline and placebo trials. There were significant increases in time in bed, total sleep time and sleep efficiency total (P < 0.05) with cherry juice supplementation. Although there was no difference in timing of the melatonin circardian rhythm, there was a trend to a higher mesor and amplitude.

CONCLUSIONS:

These data suggest that consumption of a tart cherry juice concentrate provides an increase in exogenous melatonin that is beneficial in improving sleep duration and quality in healthy men and women and might be of benefit in managing disturbed sleep.

Source: NCBI

The overal increasing in sleep time is 84 minutes! You don’t have necessarily to consume cherry juice, though. A bowl of fresh sweet cherries (100 gr), 1 hour before the desired sleep time, will bring the same results. For example, if you want to regulate your bed time at 11 o’clock, you may consume a bowl of cherries at 10 o’clock for a week or two, depending on the individual.

What about the winter?

Since cherries are summer fruit you may wonder how you could preserve them for your winter insomnia nights. Well, for yet another time, i’ll stress the importance to avoid canned and processed food, very simply because nothing can substitute the fresh nutrients!

Make your own homemade cherry jam!

You will need:  1kg of cherries, 700 gr of sugar, 2 soupspoons of lemon juice, half cup of water

Execute

  1. wash the cherries and remove the stems.
  2. Take the pot that you will use to boil cherries and carefully remove the pits without destroying the cherries (you may use a pitter for this job), letting the cherry juice to drip in the pot (you will need this natural juice to boil them)
  3. you put in the pot one layer of cherries – one layer of sugar and again, one layer of cherries – one layer of sugar, until you use all your incredients. add the water
  4. Leave it for one night as it is, for the juice and sugar to blend together nicely and boil them in medium temparature the next day
  5. as cherries boil, remove with a spoon the scum from the pot’s surface and gently stir them for a while
  6. lower the temperature and 45 minutes later add the lemon juice
  7. when the mix stick on the spoon your cherry jam is ready!
  8. Put it in jams when it is still hot and close well. That’s it!

Go red before you go to bed! Take one or two tea spoon of cherry jam, one hour before the time you want to sleep and…good night!

Sotia Bella