Well, there isn’t any direct evidence to suggest this specifically works in athletes, so I’m crossing some T’s and dotting some I’s here.
However, Pigeon et al (2010) investigated whether tart cherry juice was effective in reducing the symptoms of insomnia over a two week period in elderly individuals.
Montmorency tart cherry juice is jam packed with phytonutrients, with the two key nutrients in question being:
1) Anthocyanins – high antioxidant that aids with reducing oxidative stress.
2) Melatonin – aids with the regulation of sleep.
There’s a number of inflammatory cytokines (send messages between cells) that regulate sleep, therefore combining melatonin with the anti-inflammatory effects of Anthocyanins can only be a good thing?
The small group of elderly individuals consumed two servings of tart cherry juice (equivalent of 100 cherries per day) and reportedly had a far better night’s sleep. Findings would suggest that cherries can modestly improve sleep quality in older adults and decrease the severity of insomnia symptoms, i.e. minutes awake after sleep onset.
In comparison with other insomnia related products such as valerian and melatonin, cherry juice is extremely similar in terms of effectiveness. BTW, if you have insomnia, cognitive behavioural therapy is the first port of call (National Institutes of Health State of the Science Conference statement on Manifestations and Management of Chronic Insomnia in Adults, 2005).
When it comes to every supplement or method we use, it must either be neutral or beneficial to the person. As far as I’m aware, tart cherries don’t have any negatives, therefore it’s A-OK to try out in different populations and settings when the research is lacking. By all means, the results may not directly link, but it’s sometimes worth exploring.
Anecdotally, when applying this to some of my coaching clients, they’ve been able to have far less disruptive night’s sleep after late kick-offs. Whether this is through the aforementioned mechanistic actions above, or through placebo….who knows, they just sleep better.
Food for thought.
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