One symptom of mild altitude sickness is disrupted sleep. So when I experienced insomnia after moving to Boulder, Colo., I wasn’t too terribly surprised. I would wake up at 3 a.m., throat parched as a result of the high and dry climate, desperately reaching for water.
But despite having now adjusted to the 5430 ft elevation, I still periodically morph into a creature of the night—baking, cleaning, reading, or (the worst) staring at my ceiling for hours on end, willing myself to succumb to sleep, into the wee hours of the morning.
After a recent excruciating night where I was awake until 4 a.m., resulting in a personality not unlike a zombie the following day, I decided to take things into my own hands. Marching into the integrative pharmacy Pharmaca, I enlisted the staff's help to find a natural sleep aid that truly worked. Enter Pharmaca Sleep Formula, a blend of the naturally occuring hormones melatonin and suntheanine. After taking two tablets I was not only able to fall asleep, but stay asleep too—victory!
But while Sleep Formula was effective, it’s not particularly comforting to rely on a pill for sleep, regardless of its content. So I was close to ecstatic when I read a recent study examining a possible sleep aid I wouldn’t mind becoming addicted to.
New research links consuming tart cherry juice (not sweetened cherry cocktail, mind you) to improved quality and duration of sleep. In a study conducted by scientists at UK-based Northumbria University, 20 participants drank 30 mL of either tart cherry juice or placebo juice for a week, keeping a daily sleep diary of their snoozing patterns. Subjects also wore sensors monitoring sleep cycles and had their urine tested for the sleep hormone melatonin.
The results were quite impressive.
People who had the juice reported napping less during the day, sleeping longer and better at night, and had significantly more melatonin levels than the placebo group. It appears that concentrated tart cherry juice, especially from Montmorency cherries, stimulates melatonin.
So, sleep-deprived readers, give tart cherry juice a try... the worst that can happen is that you receive a megadose of heart-healthy phytochemicals. Not into juice? Try making the following scrumptious, cherry-centric dishes to ease into a relaxing evening.
Mint Couscous with Tart Cherries
Serves 4/ In Morocco, mint and couscous are bon amis. And in my house, mint and cherries, especially tart cherries (also called pie cherries), are a favorite combination. So it was inevitable all three would meet, and I am pleased to report the triumvirate is triumphant.
Golden Quinoa Pilaf with Tart Cherries
Serves 4 / A pilaf to please everyone—it’s a little sweet, a little tart, and a little savory. Quinoa is another great source of soluble fiber; spinach provides beta-carotene and vitamin C; and ginger, turmeric, and cherries all contain anti-inflammatory compounds.