Few things in life are more frustrating than trying to get to sleep — especially when making an effort to doze off seems to put sleep even further out of your reach.
If this sounds like you, you might find some relief in three safe, lesser known sleep aids.
You don’t need to rely on dangerous, addictive prescription drugs that knock you out and burden you with harsh side effects. All you need is some tart cherry juice — a natural sleep-inducer that’s been gaining a surprising amount of attention in recent years, from researchers all over the world.
Juicing up your sleep hormone
We’ll start at Louisiana State University (LSU), where researchers recruited eight healthy volunteers over age 50 who struggled with frequent insomnia.
For two weeks, half the participants drank 8 ounces of tart Montmorency cherry juice twice every day: Once in the morning, and again in the evening, an hour or two before bedtime. The other four participants drank a placebo juice.
This was a crossover study, which means that the test was repeated, with those in the original cherry juice group drinking the placebo, and vice versa with the original placebo group.
Overall, when drinking tart cherry juice twice a day, participants improved their sleep time by nearly 90 minutes compared to placebo. In addition, blood tests showed that cherry juice boosted tryptophan — an essential amino acid with a calming effect— and two polyphenols that are known to promote sleep.
In another crossover study conducted in the UK, 20 healthy adults drank about 1 ounce of tart cherry juice early each morning, and again 30 minutes before bed. At this lower cherry juice “dose,” participants improved their sleep time by an average of 39 minutes — about half of the improvement seen in the LSU results.
In this study, researchers also detected a significant jump in melatonin levels when volunteers were drinking cherry juice. Melatonin is the hormone in your brain that largely influences your circadian rhythm (your internal “body clock”) and helps induce sleep.
And in one more crossover trial similar to the two studies above, 15 older adults who suffered from chronic insomnia had “significant reductions in insomnia severity” as well as “substantial improvements on all sleep variables” when drinking tart cherry juice daily.
The trend here is clear, and it plays out in other studies too — for some people with insomnia, tart cherry juice offers a considerable improvement in sleep time and quality.
But if daily helpings of tart cherry juice aren’t for you, there are other effective non-drug sleep aids you can turn to.
The true source of your sleep problems
In Dr. Fred Pescatore’s Perfect Sleep Protocol, he explains that most sleep issues stem from overworked adrenal glands. This is known as adrenal fatigue, but it’s actually adrenal gland overdrive, which produces excess cortisol, adrenaline, and other hormones.
The irony with adrenal fatigue is that you become too exhausted to sleep, yet nourishing sleep is key in overcoming adrenal fatigue.
In his Perfect Sleep Protocol, Dr. Pescatore also recommends diet, supplement, and lifestyle interventions to address adrenal function. But in the meantime, safe, non-drug sleep aids like tart cherry juice can help you get back on track.
Above and beyond his basic adrenal support regimen, Dr. Pescatore prescribes five supplements to sleepless patients, and he begins with two key amino acids:
This supplement induces drowsiness, but there’s much more to it than that. Dr. Pescatore explains, “It also works on neurotransmitter levels by raising serotonin and other chemicals in your brain. This helps to regulate your body’s sleep/wake cycle, as well as to support your adrenal glands.”
Dr. Pescatore recommends 100 mg at bedtime. If a higher dose is needed you can increase dosage by 100 mg per night until you’re able to drift off to sleep easily. The safe upper limit is 5,000 mg, but Dr. Pescatore notes that most people don’t need more than 1,000 mg. And one word of caution: Don’t take 5-HTP if you’re using antidepressants.
This supplement helps regulate neurotransmitters. And Dr. Pescatore adds, “They’re just as important as your hormones in the pursuit of deep, restorative sleep and adrenal health.” That’s why he recommends 400 mg of SAM-e every morning — but again: only if you’re not taking antidepressants.
These two supplements, he says, should form the core of your sleep restoring regimen. But going forward, he recommends three additional supplements that you can gradually incorporate into your supplementation routine on until you find a combination that delivers the best results.
You can find out all the details about Dr. Pescatore’s full range of supplement recommendations — as well as more helpful insights about restoring your adrenal health — in his Perfect Sleep Protocol. Click here to learn more, or to enroll today.
“New pilot study: Montmorency tart cherry juice increased sleep time among participating” EurekAlert, 10/27/17. (eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-10/wsc-nps102717.php)
“Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality.” European Journal of Nutrition 2012; 51(8): 909-916. doi: 10.1007/s00394-011-0263-7
“Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study.” Journal of Medicinal Food 2010; 13(3): 579-583. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2009.0096