Scientific studies have shown that tart or sour Montmorency cherries contain melatonin, and that taking tart cherry juice concentrate can improve sleep quality. Studies are also investigating its use as an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial.
One of the sleep studies, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, had a double-blind, placebo controlled design and concluded that
“Total melatonin content was significantly elevated (P < 0.05) 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 (P < 0.05) with cherry juice supplementation. Although there was no difference in timing of the melatonin circardian rhythm, there was a trend to a higher mesor and amplitude… 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.” (1)
Another study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food studied the effectiveness of this cherry juice on subjects with insomnia, compared to using a placebo. It concluded
“The results of this pilot study suggest that CherryPharm, a tart cherry juice blend, has modest beneficial effects on sleep in older adults with insomnia with effect sizes equal to or exceeding those observed in studies of valerian and in some, but not all, studies of melatonin, the two most studied natural products for insomnia.” (2)
Tart or sour cherry juice, and cherry concentrates in pill form are now widely available, and can be bought over the counter and online. This may be an option for those wishing to try melatonin in countries where melatonin itself is a prescription-only medication.
The present writer can attest that such supplements do work in sending you off to sleep quickly; but after four or five hours some wakefulness may return – that is my experience.
European Journal of Nutrition, December 2012, Volume 51, Issue 8, pp 909–916, Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality, Glyn Howatson, Phillip G. Bell, Jamie Tallent, Benita Middleton, Malachy P. McHugh, Jason Ellis.
Wilfred R. Pigeon, Michelle Carr, Colin Gorman, and Michael L. Perlis. Journal of Medicinal Food. June 2010, 13(3): 579-583. doi:10.1089/jmf.2009.0096.