What is Insomnia?
A sleep disorder characterized by problems falling or staying asleep at night. It is either short-term (3-4 weeks) or long-term (more than 4 weeks). Insomnia can occur at any age, but it is common in elderly. The treatment involves mostly behavioral therapy or prescription pills, depending upon the cause of sleeplessness.
Why do we need sleep?
Let’s just say it is like rebooting your system. What happens when you do that with your body?
Similar things happen to our brain when we sleep proper. Apart from that, scientists also suggest that even modest sleep deprivation can do serious damage to the way our immune system functions.
What is this 1-Tip that can help one sleep better naturally?
Montmorency Tart Cherry Juice, twice a day. Yep that’s your prescription!
Cherry juice is once again into limelight because of a recent research conducted in Louisiana State University (US). The subjects (volunteering older adults, average age of 68) had Montmorency tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks which increased their sleep time by 84 minutes. The placebo phase showed no such results.
This is some significant improvement, isn’t it?!
But, there were two things about the study which bothered me.
First, it is statistically irrelevant as there were only seven subjects under examination. And second, it was funded by Cherry Marketing Institute, whose sales skyrocketed post-release of the study.
So, should I or you trust this info?
My first reaction – Big NO. But, as I read more about these cherries and how we fall asleep, I felt a need to research further. So, here are my findings:
- Our biological cycle and sleep are regulated by two chemical messengers namely, melatonin and serotonin, respectively.
- With progression of age, melatonin production decreases. This means disrupted body cycle in older adults.
- Montmorency tart cherries contain loads of tryptophan, an amino acid which produces serotonin and later melatonin. This implies better sleep.
Though the amount of tryptophan present in cherries is less than what can help one sleep better, it still can help. And this is already proved in two independent studies.
Study 1: When compared to placebo, the 2010 study found that the beverage produced significant reductions in insomnia severity (minutes awake after sleep onset).
Study 2: This 2012 research found that total melatonin level was elevated in the cherry juice group, with no differences between baseline and placebo. There were significant increases in time in bed, total sleep time and sleep efficiency total with cherry juice supplementation.
Though these too had few subjects, it does indicate that cherry juice is worth a trial.
Not a cherry juice fan? Try these:
Kiwi, Olive oil, Wine (some beers also), Walnuts, Pineapples, Bananas, Oranges, Grape skins, Sweet corn, Rice, Barley, Oats – All rich in sleep inducing chemicals. Or exercise.
Whatever you do, avoid sleeping pills. At all costs.
Why ditching sleeping pills is more significant for older adults than younger insomniacs?
It is not correct to say that younger insomniacs should go for sleeping pills, as they can get you addicted. But, the risk of consuming these medications in the elderly is far higher. With ageing, problems like arthritis, poor balance and vision come too. The situation worsens with consumption of sleeping pills as there is an increased risk of falling leading to broken hips and, often, earlier death.
Though no study results are satisfactory, they still give hope. I wouldn’t say cherry juice will completely cure your insomnia, but like I said earlier, its worth a try. After all, it is au natural. So, no potential harm in consuming two glasses of red beauty, unless you are diabetic.
Even if you don’t receive any ‘sleep’ benefits, you’ll still be filling your body with oodles of antioxidants. And if you do notice an improvement in your sleep pattern, share your story in the comments below.
Also practice an 8 minute sequence of yoga poses for 8 hours of good sleep.
Sleep Tight 😉
References:  Irwin M, Mascovich A, Gillin JC, Willoughby R, Pike J, & Smith TL (1994). Partial sleep deprivation reduces natural killer cell activity in humans. Psychosomatic medicine, 56 (6), 493-8 PMID: 7871104. ^Back to Top^  Irwin M, McClintick J, Costlow C, Fortner M, White J, & Gillin JC (1996). Partial night sleep deprivation reduces natural killer and cellular immune responses in humans. FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 10 (5), 643-53 PMID: 8621064. ^Back to Top^  Liu AG, Tipton RC, Pan W, Finley JW, Prudente A, Karki N, Losso JN, Greenway FL. Tart Cherry Juice Increases Sleep Time in Older Adults with Insomnia. Experimental Biology 2014. San Diego, CA. April 28, 2014. (prnewswire.com). ^Back to Top^  Sack RL, Lewy AJ, Erb DL, Vollmer WM, & Singer CM (1986). Human melatonin production decreases with age. Journal of pineal research, 3 (4), 379-88 PMID: 3783419. ^Back to Top^  Pigeon WR, Carr M, Gorman C, & Perlis ML (2010). Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. Journal of medicinal food, 13 (3), 579-83 PMID: 20438325. ^Back to Top^  Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, McHugh MP, & Ellis J (2012). Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. European journal of nutrition, 51 (8), 909-16 PMID: 22038497. ^Back to Top^  Hartikainen S, Lönnroos E, & Louhivuori K (2007). Medication as a risk factor for falls: critical systematic review. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences, 62 (10), 1172-81 PMID: 17921433. ^Back to Top^  Woolcott JC, Richardson KJ, Wiens MO, Patel B, Marin J, Khan KM, & Marra CA (2009). Meta-analysis of the impact of 9 medication classes on falls in elderly persons. Archives of internal medicine, 169 (21), 1952-60 PMID: 19933955. ^Back to Top^  Stone, K., Ensrud, K., & Ancoli-Israel, S. (2008). Sleep, insomnia and falls in elderly patients Sleep Medicine, 9 DOI: 10.1016/S1389-9457(08)70012-1. ^Back to Top^
Last Updated: July 2nd, 2014
Next Scheduled Update: Sept 2nd, 2014