Medically reviewed by Brandy Hall, MSN, RN, 02/01/2023
It may be cliché to describe yourself as a “terrible sleeper,” but I can assure you that the title suits me better than anyone I know. I sleep-talk, sleepwalk, experience night terrors, drool, toss, turn, and have even sent a “sleep email” to myself that read “quit your job.”
Needless to say, I am a) unsurprisingly single and b) constantly testing every remedy under the sun — err — moon to properly catch Zzz’s and ensure a good night’s sleep. These methods have included everything from ASMR videos and melatonin to indica gummies and prescription medications. Ultimately, nothing has worked consistently or effectively as a long-term solution, but I always hold on to a glimmer of hope that something someday will eradicate the seemingly permanent bags that have formed underneath my eyes.
Tart cherry juice: Miracle sleep liquid?
My dad (who I must admit is not the model of pristine health) has a random obsession with tart cherry juice. He swears by its anti-inflammatory benefits and simply enjoys it as a sweet, slightly sour beverage to end his day. It wasn’t until recently, however, that he touted its ability to make him sleep quicker, better, and longer. Some brands have even printed the claims directly on their bottles to market to weary customers. At first, I was skeptical, but a simple Google search would prove that there are quite a few studies to support Dad’s claim.
Testing the sleep-enhancing effects of tart cherry juice
Never one to dismiss the possibility of finding an insomnia cure (especially a natural one!), I thought I’d put tart cherry juice to the test and conduct a week-long experiment. The process was simple: Consume a single serving (one cup) of tart cherry juice one-to-two hours before bedtime without altering any part of my typical sleep habits or environment. If I went to bed late, the “miracle liquid” would be ingested late. If I wanted to scroll on my phone after drinking it, I would scroll away until dozing off. Nothing in my routine would change other than the addition of drinking juice.
The tart cherry juice sleep experiment
After night one, I was excited about the prospect of something so basic and readily available being able to effect real change to my negative sleep habits. Sure, I understood that results were most likely not going to happen overnight, but I didn’t let that deter me from happily guzzling it with gusto.
After a couple days, I realized I didn’t love the idea that I was chugging 22 grams of sugar right before lying horizontally for eight hours. It’s usually not difficult for me to adopt new activities, but if said activity yields adverse effects like an upset tummy or headache, it will quickly become an activity I despise. And I did grow to despise this.
As a creative alternative, I once diluted it with sparkling water, which definitely made it more palatable. Another night I incorporated it into a protein shake after a late-night workout, which was surprisingly delicious. But still, I was not particularly fond of the sweetness level, especially before or after having to brush my teeth.
Despite teetering on the edge of “I hate this so much” territory, I managed to get through a week of consumption, salvaged only by its promise of better sleep.
The results of drinking tart cherry juice to help my sleep
Ultimately and unfortunately, I didn’t notice a significant difference in overall sleep quality. I was able to drift off easily every night, but woke up many times in the early AM, only to have trouble falling back asleep. In fact, there was one point during the week when I felt like I was getting sick (so much for the power of those antioxidants!), which seemed like a direct result of sleep-deprivation.
Additionally, I believe there is something to be said about the psychological element of anticipation. Having the anxiety of hope, right before bed, likely kept me from properly winding down, so the tart cherry juice could simply do its job.
I do think my study would have benefitted from another week or two of trial and error to *really* determine whether or not the fruity drink can make a substantial difference, though I was ready to be done with the sugar rush.
I will say, however, that another touted benefit of tart cherry juice is its ability to ease muscle soreness. After a couple of hard workouts, I did notice that my recovery felt much quicker, especially after one gym session I had later in the evening.
While my Great Tart Cherry Juice Sleep Experiment didn’t work for me, I am still a firm believer that what may not work for some people may work for others. Many factors — like pre-existing medical conditions, bedroom environments, and good ol’ genetics — can come into play, so it’s unfair to entirely dismiss a treatment just because it didn’t work for one sleepy guy. There’s a reason why studies have been funded to explore its sleep-enhancing traits and you may be one of the lucky ones that tart cherry juice actually benefits.
So if you’re struggling with sleep like me, you have nothing to lose (except more hours of rest, which you’re already accustomed to by now). Why not give it a shot? At the very least, you’ll get a good dose of potassium, vitamin A, and, yes, those antioxidants, which is something we can all cheers to.