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Sleep is an elusive prospect for many Britons – one in three to be precise. There are many reasons for not getting enough shut eye. Fortunately, you don’t always need to identify the root cause to remedy the problem. In fact, research suggests even simple dietary tweaks can extend your overall sleep time.
That’s the conclusion of a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition.
The aim of the investigation was to ascertain whether ingestion of a tart cherry juice concentrate would increase the urinary melatonin levels in healthy adults and improve sleep quality.
Tart cherries, also known as Montmorency cherries and sour cherries are a very rich source of antioxidants and other nutrients.
These cherries are naturally rich in melatonin, and also contain a good amount of tryptophan and anthocyanins, both of which support melatonin production.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that is produced by the pineal gland (located in your brain). It helps control your sleep cycle.
In the study, 20 volunteers consumed either a placebo or tart cherry juice concentrate for seven days.
Measures of sleep quality recorded by actigraphy – a portable wristband that measures movement – and subjective sleep questionnaires were completed.
Urine samples were also collected to analyse melatonin content.
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What did the researchers find out?
Total melatonin content was significantly elevated in the cherry juice group, whilst no differences were shown between baseline and placebo trials.
There were significant increases in time in bed, total sleep time and sleep efficiency total with cherry juice supplementation.
The cherry juice increased sleep time in participants by 85 minutes on average.
The researchers concluded: “These data suggest that consumption of a tart cherry juice concentrate provides an increase in exogenous melatonin that is beneficial in improving sleep duration and quality in healthy men and women and might be of benefit in managing disturbed sleep.”
Other dietary tips
Holland and Barrett says: “Eating and drinking dairy products like milk is generally considered to have a positive effect on physical and mental health, as well as promoting food sleep quality.”
According to the health body, this is thought to be because milk and dairy products are a great source of melatonin – containing a high amount of tryptophan.
“Interestingly, an amino acid found in dairy called a-lactalbumin is thought to help tryptophan reach the brain where it can be synthesised into serotonin and melatonin.”
It cites a systematic review of past studies between 1972 and 2019 observed that a well-balanced diet including milk and dairy products is “considered to be effective for improving sleep quality”.
However, the systematic review also stated that there was a correlation between people who met daily calcium recommendations and a generally healthy diet, so that could be a factor.
What the NHS recommends
“First of all, keep regular sleeping hours. This programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine.”
According to the health body, it is also important to try and wake up at the same time every day.
“While it may seem like a good idea to try to catch up on sleep after a bad night, doing so on a regular basis can also disrupt your sleep routine.”
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