A pilot study by research scientists has shown that tart cherry juice can reduce insomnia and help your sleep. The study was conducted by researchers from two universities and the VA Center of Canandaigua, and their findings were published in the June 3, 2010 issue of the Journal of Medicinal Food. Hopefully, cherry growers and distributors won’t publicize this and bring more threats from the FDA upon themselves!
Cherries Improve Sleep?
The pilot study was undertaken to determine if the subject at hand is worthy of more research. So maybe the jury is still out. But one fact remains, cherries are rich in melatonin, especially their skins.
Melatonin is the sleep hormone produced by the pineal gland. In sufficient amount, it helps you get to sleep without much delay and allows you to go through all the different levels or cycles of sleep. That function is somewhat blocked by light because daytime is when you should be awake and alert. This is why ensuring your bedroom is really dark is vitally important.
Melatonin production can be blocked by stress and calcification of the pineal gland from fluorides. The pineal gland has been proven to suck in even more fluorides than bones and teeth. Is it any wonder that in addition to stressful living, a nation that has 70 percent of its processed drinking water supply fluoridated has over 40 million insomnia suffers?
There are several brands of melatonin supplements available to induce sleep without side effects. Though most use melatonin successfully, there are some folks who have problems with melatonin supplements. Some people actually become more “wired”, while others who manage to sleep better with melatonin get freaked out by dreams that are more intense than they can bear. These people are a minority, and you may want to look into this powerful supplement.
Tart cherries or cherry juices can help increase your melatonin levels while providing high antioxidant protection. Russel J. Retier, PhD biomedical scientist at the University of Texas Health Center puts it this way: “When consumed regularly, tart cherries may help regulate the body’s natural sleep cycle and increase sleep efficiency, including decreasing the time it takes to fall asleep…And, because cherries are so rich in other antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, you get other important health benefits.”
Anthocyanins are what gives berries their red or purple colors. But more importantly, anthocyanins have more antioxidant power than 150 other flavonoids. Chlorophyll is the only other plant pigment with more essential nutritional value.
Defining Insomnia Properly
Not being able to get to sleep is merely one example of insomnia. Getting up frequently, inadvertently getting up too early, problems getting back to sleep after being awakened, not feeling refreshed, or feeling irritable after putting in the hours of sleep that we normally consider enough are all signs of insomnia. The last symptom described commonly indicates a missed stage, usually the deep sleep phase of the sleep cycles.
It’s not just the hours that determine adequate sleep, but the quality of sleep that is paramount. And that quality is determined by whether or not one goes through the five inner cycles of sleep without interruption.
The five inner cycles don’t occur only once during the total time you’re in bed. Those five phases recycle again and again with durations shifting as they recycle. If any of those sleep phases get short circuited, then there is a problem with the quality of sleep regardless of your hours in bed.
Deep sleep stages three and four, with their different levels of Delta waves, have been determined to be the most beneficial for strengthening the immune system, while stage five is the notorious REM (rapid eye movement) cycle. That’s where we do most of our dreaming and/or stress relief.
A study at the Mt. Sinai Hospital in Miami Beach, Florida observed the brain wave sleep patterns of 10 men who had tested positively for HIV but had no early signs of AIDS. The researchers found that somehow these 10 men all spent 50 percent more time in stages 4 and 5 sleep than most average healthy people.
They concluded that the immune system can be strengthened enough by high quality sleep in those two stages to ward off AIDS in HIV positive people. The trick is figuring out how to extend this level of sleep and produce more Delta waves. More sleep cycles data can be found here.
Adding Melatonin to Your Diet
When melatonin was first introduced as a supplement a few decades ago, there were volumes written on its potential for longevity and/or aging reduction. Since stress can make you older faster by messing with your immune system, it makes sense that better sleep habits and patterns can help keep you biologically young.
Coping daily with poor sleep only adds to stress and further diminishes the immune system. The concept of recharging the battery is applicable to sleep’s importance. It’s important to treat sleep as you do diet and exercise to maintain health.
If you like tart cherries or cherry juices (no sugar or aspartame please), indulging yourself regularly may be an enjoyable way to ensure adequate melatonin levels for high quality sound sleep and improve overall health.
Sources for this article include: