I Drank Tart Cherry Juice Every Day for a Week—Here’s What Happened

Updated: Apr. 23, 2024

It's said to be a non-medicated sleep aid...but does it work? A sleep tracker device delivered the real verdict of drinking tart cherry juice every night for a week.

Sleep is on everyone’s mind right after the weekend we set our clocks ahead. Losing an hour of sleep is at the very least an inconvenience, but for some, the switch to daylight saving time can be a health hazard.

Even when we don’t “lose” an hour, multiple sources have stated that one-third of people in the U.S. don’t get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep at night. Getting less than that recommendation over a consistent period can increase your risk of developing several conditions, including heart disease, obesity, type-2 diabetes, and other conditions. With the issue of compromised sleep being so widespread, it’s no wonder people turn to medications to get more shuteye. But what if a simple juice could improve sleep without the need for heavy narcotics?

In the past few years, tart cherry juice has orbited news headlines and social media platforms as more Americans prioritize their wellness, including sleep. Tart cherry juice is made from sweet-and-sour Montmorency cherries, which are grown predominantly in Michigan, and can be ingested either straight up or blended with other ingredients in what some TikTokers have called a “sleepy girl mocktail.” Some tart cherry believers swear that these unique cherries help them get the best sleep of their lives. But does it work? I decided to test this home remedy by drinking tart cherry juice every day for a week and found that while some viral habits have no basis in science, this one might just hold water…er, juice.

With a five-year-old who loves to procrastinate at bedtime, an almost-two-year-old who still wakes up once a night, and a 17-year-old cat who has recently decided 3:30 a.m. is prime time for breakfast, I have a lot to contend with between sunset and sunrise. While tart cherry juice can’t do much about these obstacles—would it help with falling back to sleep and sleeping more in the morning?

Ahead, find out what this health reporter (and tired mom!) experienced when I drank tart cherry juice every day for a week.

full frame of fresh CherriesOscar Sánchez Photography/Getty Images

The health benefits of tart cherry juice

Research, such as one 2019 international nutrition study, has suggested there are multiple potential benefits from drinking tart cherry juice. These include reduced LDL cholesterol and lowered blood pressure, as well as quicker muscle recovery from exercise. Tart cherries have also been celebrated for being high in fiber and good for gut health, though some experts point out that the juice doesn’t necessarily do the same thing.

Arguably tart cherry juice’s most coveted asset is sleep support. One clinician who’s reported to be a registered dietician associated with OhioHealth said in a post that this could be because “tart cherry juice helps increase the bioavailability of tryptophan, and tryptophan is what is required to produce melatonin.” Melatonin is a naturally occurring physiological hormone that helps bring on and prolong sleep.

While some studies are inconclusive and suggest that results vary, a few do credit tart cherry juice with improved sleep times, deeper sleep, and an easier time dozing off. Just as one example, a 2012 cross-over study in the European Journal of Nutrition showed that melatonin increased significantly in the group that got drank cherry juice. Participants’ time in bed, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency also all improved.

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Health risks of tart cherry juice

However, one common concern some health professionals have cited about tart cherry juice is its sugar content: Some sources report that an eight-ounce glass contains 25 grams of sugar, which is more than six teaspoons in one small glass! In fact, said Courtney Kassis, MS, RD, LDN, on TikTok, the sleepy girl mocktail can contain a full day’s worth of sugar—and even if it’s not added sugar, this influencer said that drinking tart cherry juice before bed can inadvertently lead to a blood sugar crash and in turn trigger a late-night wake-up, negating the drink’s purported effects.

If your blood sugar is stable, you aren’t prediabetic or diabetic, and you don’t drink this puckery sleep aid every night, the consensus among dietitians and doctors tends to be that tart cherry juice is generally safe in most cases. For people with IBS or gastritis, the acidity of the juice could be irritating. Some clinicians recommend treading lightly and not consuming eight ounces of the juice without testing its effects.

If you have kidney issues, it would be advisable to discuss them with a healthcare provider before adding this juice to your diet. A dietitian answering questions for the National Kidney Foundation notes that tart cherries are considered “medium” potassium fruits. Any use by someone who has to limit potassium due to kidney issues should clear its use with their doctor first.

One 2018 study in the journal Advances in Nutrition that combined the body of literature on the health effects of drinking no-sugar-added, all-natural juice concluded that “there is no conclusive evidence that consumption of 100% fruit juice has adverse health effects.” Of course, this depends on the amount and the frequency of consumption. The researchers leading this study cited dental cavities and weight gain as potential issues but concluded that drinking juice is not the same as drinking soda, sugary coffee beverages, or energy drinks. All of the former should be minimized, but juice can be a part of a healthy diet if it is considered with calorie needs.

Finally, because a recommended dose of tart cherry juice is 16 to 24 ounces, this probably wouldn’t be the perfect strategy for someone who’s battling bedtime bladder issues. I stuck to an eight-ounce glass for my experiment each night, but some sources suggest that opting for an appropriate dosage of tart cherry capsules will have the same drowsy effect as the full fluid dosage.

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Drinking tart cherry juice every night

I enjoyed the flavor of tart cherry juice more than I’d anticipated

Tart cherry juice needs a new name, because I thought it would be extremely tart—but it was actually very nice. It had body and astringency that I can only equate to red wine. It tasted subtly sweet, almost like a cross between cabernet, merlot, and zinfandel. (Also, it might stain your tongue and mouth like wine, too! I found it made sense that some experts flagged the warnings regarding teeth and oral health, especially before bed when the sugar and acid coat the teeth all night with minimal saliva production to cleanse the mouth.)

While this flavor wouldn’t please people who love a super sweet juice, if you’re a wine drinker this could be a good substitute. Again, though, just watch the sugar.

When I drank tart cherry juice, my sleep improved the first night…and kept getting better

I discovered that I felt sleepy about an hour after drinking my first eight-ounce glass. This could have been thanks to a placebo effect, or the influx of insulin my body needed to handle that much sugar at once. I’d been taking a very intentional break from sugar, and even though this is natural sugar, it’s still a hefty amount in one serving.

However, I had another method ready to test my sleep changes. I wear a step and sleep tracker and was excited to compare the results to the days and weeks before. From the first day, both my deep and REM sleep increased significantly beyond my average, although I didn’t experience an increase in sleep time. This part wasn’t a surprise, thanks to my aforementioned toddler and aging cat.

By day four, I felt strong confidence that my tart cherry juice was having a significant effect. Despite the usual sleep disturbances, I was sleeping longer and deeper. Even when I woke up, I was still able to fall back to sleep quickly. I typically wake up at around 5 a.m., but I found myself crawling back under the covers for just a little more time…and dozing off easily again. On the final day of my tart cherry juice test, I hit seven-and-a-half hours of sleep, something I hadn’t been able to do in months.

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When I drank tart cherry juice, I felt groggy and irritated some mornings

I was a bit sleepy in the morning, and some days it was hard to drag myself through the morning chaos of getting the kids ready for school. It made me question how long tart cherry juice lingers in the system, and I tried to be conscious to flush it with a good amount of water. I might do this experiment again with four ounces of juice and some sparkling water to minimize the grogginess.

Tart cherry juice was a little hard on my stomach

Drinking a whole eight ounces of juice on an empty stomach was a shock to my system at first. The first few nights, I found it made me feel a bit queasy. I got used to this and began looking forward to my wine-like beverage, but I made an effort to drink it slowly and consume it at least an hour before bed.

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How to drink tart cherry juice for improved sleep

Be sure you’re buying the real thing

Before you down your first glass, be sure what you are buying is 100% tart cherry juice, and skip anything that isn’t labeled “tart.” I found plenty of blends and tonics with cheaper apple juice and other ingredients, which will reduce the actual level of cherry juice.

Be wary of big walls of juice, because you’re going to have to read the labels. My local supermarket didn’t have any pure tart cherry juice. The health food store carried it, but it was pricey: $12 for four four-cup servings.

Walmart had 100% tart cherry juice for far less if you’re going to be drinking a lot of it. Concentrates are fine if they are made up of tart cherry juice, but be aware that the sugar content can vary for these products—and be sure to cut it with the appropriate amount of still or sparkling water.

How much tart cherry juice to drink and when

In my experience, eight ounces of pure tart cherry juice about an hour before you plan to go to sleep worked well. Adjust your amount if you experience any issues with drowsiness or stomach issues.