Tart Cherry Juice for Insomnia Is the Internet’s Latest Viral Trend—But Does It Work?

Updated: Feb. 13, 2023

Tart cherry juice may not be a miracle cure, but there is some limited evidence supporting its efficacy in minimizing insomnia.

If you’ve ever suffered from any type of insomnia, you’ve probably tried numerous internet-famous “cures.” CBD? Check. Sleepytime lotion? Check. Light therapy? Check.

Now, another potential sleep aid is circling the internet—tart cherry juice—with millions of TikTok users swearing it’s a game changer. But does it actually help you fall asleep the way advocates claim it does? We investigated the efficacy of tart cherry juice so you don’t have to—here’s what you need to know.

Does Tart Cherry Juice Really Help You Sleep?

The hype around tart cherry juice as a sleep aid is largely due to a 2012 study in which 20 volunteers received one ounce of either tart cherry juice or a placebo 30 minutes before trying to sleep every night for seven days. Researchers found that “[t]here were significant increases in time in bed, total sleep time and sleep efficiency total with cherry juice supplementation.” This is presumably tied to the measurable elevation in melatonin levels in those who consumed the cherry juice.

In an interview with Martha Stewart, Mia Syn, MS, RDN, and author of Mostly Plant-Based confirms this connection, saying, “tart cherry juice may have a positive effect on sleep due to tryptophan and melatonin.” As you may already know, melatonin is a hormone the brain releases in response to darkness that aids in sleep, while tryptophan is an amino acid that aids in the body’s production of melatonin.

So, according to this very limited batch of research, it is possible that tart cherry juice can help with sleep. However, more scientific study is definitely needed before we can purport its sleep benefits with certainty.

Is Tart Cherry Juice Better Than Melatonin Supplements?

Cherry Horchata with a glass cup decanter and cherries on a wooden backgroundMariha-kitchen/Getty Images

The short answer is likely no, but possibly, depending on what your sleep struggles are. Syn explains, “The amount of melatonin in tart cherry juice is less than that of traditional melatonin supplements.” So, if you need a proper dosage of melatonin, you may still be better served by traditional supplements.

However, Benjamin Bring, DO at Ohio Health, points out one critical difference in the same Martha Stewart article: “Melatonin is actually beneficial for helping to fall asleep and stay asleep. Whereas, the tart cherry juice seems to be more for improvement in sleep quality as opposed to actually getting into sleep.” This is to say that if your particular sleep issues are around sub-par sleep quality, it’s possible that tart cheery juice could help you, but not necessarily any more than melatonin could.

How Much Tart Cherry Juice Should I Drink for Sleep?

According to the Sleep Foundation, drinking up to 16 ounces of tart cherry juice a day is acceptable for sleep.

While experts like Bring agree that “[t]here doesn’t seem to be conclusive evidence that this a really good sleep aid” and more research is necessary, there also isn’t much risk in trying tart cherry juice.

Tart cherry juice contains inflammation-busting antioxidants and, like prune juice, may help with digestion. The most noted side effects are possible gastrointestinal issues (gas, bloating, diarrhea). Additionally, a one-cup serving of tart cherry juice contains 33 grams of sugar, so it is not advisable for those watching their sugar or calorie intake.

As per usual, consuming whole cherries is generally preferable to having only juice. But, if you’d like to try tart cherry juice for yourself based on the anecdotal evidence, feel free to do so in moderation.

What Else Can I Do to Get Better Sleep?

Before or perhaps in addition to using melatonin or drinking tart cherry juice, there are numerous lifestyle changes you can make to help improve sleep quality. For starters, Bring recommends building a regular habit: “Try to stay in a cold, dark room, go to bed at the same time every night, wake up at the same time every morning, and avoid screens at nighttime as much as you can.”

Proper hydration, tea, a white noise machine or an eye mask can also help if part of your routine. Some sleepers swear keeping a decluttered home helps them sleep, while others turn to calming practices like yoga or meditation. Controlling caffeine and exercising regularly may also help. Above all, if you struggle with insomnia, consult a trusted medical professional to build a plan that works for you.

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