Tart Cherry Juice: Natural Lunesta

Hiya Sweet Friend,

Check out this super informative guest article by Jennifer Reilly, RD from my blog archives. Happy reading—take it away Jennifer! xo, Kris

There’s not a soul out there who can argue against the need for sleep. Not only is it beautifully rejuvenating both physically and mentally, but it also boosts your metabolism, quiets any tendency toward the “F-its,” and helps you choose healthier foods during the day.

Without adequate rest (seven or more hours a night), your body is stressed and responds by making more cortisol. This gives you a quick burst of energy, which is perfect if you’re in the wild running from a hungry lion. But, chances are you’re not running from a hungry lion, so the extra cortisol simply stimulates hunger and disrupts your ability to metabolize carbohydrates, therefore increasing blood sugar levels, insulin production and body fat storage.

Without enough Zzz’s, leptin production also drops. Big deal? Absolutely. Leptin triggers fullness and helps you stay satisfied with the best food choices. Without it, you’ll crave sugary movie theater carbs, and you may not be able to resist.

Sleep also stimulates growth hormones, which regulate fat and muscle proportions in the body and promote graceful aging. So, without good lengthy slumbers, you may be exercising your little tush off, but you’re not building any muscle, and the wrinkles are piling on. No thank you!

But what if you can’t sleep? Food to the rescue! Certain foods are naturally rich in the antioxidant and sleep hormone melatonin, while other foods are rich in the amino acid and serotonin precursor tryptophan. Not only might these foods help you get a good night’s rest, but they also lack the groggy-foggy day-after side effects of over-the-counter or prescription sleep meds.

Foods Rich in Melatonin
Tart cherries
Rice bran
Sweet corn
Wheatgrass juice

Foods Rich in Tryptophan
Pumpkin seeds

Both groups can be helpful for promoting restful sleep by quieting down your noisy brain when the lights turn out. But one food—tart cherries—seems to have a leg up when it comes to knocking you into a deep, refreshing sleep. I decided to do a little experiment: I wondered if it could work just as well as the peanut butter (tryptophan) or almond butter (tryptophan) and banana (melatonin) bedtime sandwich I’d come to love since my first pregnancy nearly seven years ago. And even though I generally have little trouble hitting REM after chasing three young kids and endless dirty dishes around from dawn till dusk, there are still plenty of random nights when my busy brain (on pillow) gets stuck recounting 4th-grade spelling bees.

I tried tart cherry juice for eight nights.

How I cherried: 4 ounces Very Cherre tart cherry juice 15 to 30 minutes before bed: 65 calories, 10.5 grams sugar. Bedtime was 10-10:30 p.m. (My kids are up at 5:30 a.m. sometimes!)

What happened: Fell asleep within five minutes of my head hitting the pillow, except on the night I had the Dixie Chicks’ “There’s Your Trouble” stuck in my head. That night it took five to 10 minutes to fall asleep. No trouble here!

So?: If falling asleep or staying asleep are potential problems, tart cherry juice is absolutely worth a try. Beyond my own personal n=1 pilot study, several of my nutrition patients, friends and family members have also experienced an easier time falling asleep and staying asleep with just 4 ounces of tart cherry juice at bedtime.

And as a bonus, tart cherry juice has a hearty dose of antioxidants, provides some potential arthritis and inflammation relief, and it supplies half your day’s need for vitamin C in a low-cal, 4-ounce glass. If 4 ounces at bedtime doesn’t work, Dr. Andrew Weil suggests having 8 ounces in the a.m. and the p.m.

Try this tart cherry smoothie nightcap to help neutralize the tart in the juice. This one includes soy milk, which is also naturally rich in the sleepy-time amino acid tryptophan. Heck, you might want to sip it in bed in case you dose off midway through. Cheers!

Sundowner Smoothie
Serves 1 Wired Individual

-4 ounces tart cherry juice
-4 ounces unsweetened soy milk
-1 organic orange, peeled
-1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
-4 ice cubes

Blend until smooth. Tastier than chamomile tea for sure!

Nutrition info: 172 calories, 2 grams fat, 60 milligrams sodium, 33 grams carbohydrates, 3.5 grams fiber, 18 grams sugar, 4.5 grams protein, 8% vitamin A, 117% vitamin C, 20% calcium (200 milligrams), 3% iron.

Kris Carr