Michele Ross is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. She primarily covers beauty, wellness, nutrition, and culture, and her goal is to empower readers to make informed decisions about their routines. Both on and off the clock, she geeks out on skin care ingredient deep dives, astrology, and K-pop.

The quality of your sleep can make or break everything from the fortitude of your immune defenses and mental health to your cognitive and physical performance. Unfortunately, per the Casper-Gallup State of Sleep in America 2022 Report, 1 in 3 American adults don’t get an adequate amount of shut-eye each night, and approximately 50 to 70 million Americans struggle with a sleep disorder.

For those seeking a holistic route to catching better ZZZ’s, some dietary and lifestyle hacks may be easier to adopt than others, with tart cherry juice for sleep being a popular trend on social media. (The Sleepy Girl Mocktail, which features tart cherry juice, has remained a fixture on IG feeds and FYPs for much of the past year.) But does tart cherry juice really help you sleep… or is it simply a falsified fad worth scrolling past the next time it pops up on your screen?

Keep reading to discover the science around tart cherry juice for sleep — including who may benefit most from sipping on it before bed, and how it compares to Melatonin.

Does Tart Cherry Juice Help You Sleep?

A growing body of research suggests that the juice of tart cherries (aka Montmorency cherries or sour cherries) can help you sleep. But how do these juice’s benefits kick in, exactly? For starters, tart cherries contain both Melatonin and tryptophan:

  • Melatonin is famously known as the sleep hormone. When things run as they should, our bodies produce it naturally as we wind down at night — yet excess light exposure and other forms of stimulation can delay or slow down Melatonin production, thus leaving us restless instead of snoozy. Though Melatonin is endogenous, it’s also a popular sleep supplement.
  • Meanwhile, tryptophan is an amino acid that helps regulate sleep (as well as appetite, mood, and pain), as the body uses it to produce Melatonin. In case you’ve ever grown sleepy after feasting on turkey over Thanksgiving, tryptophan is the likely culprit as turkey is a rich source of it.

Several studies across different demographics show the benefits of tart cherry juice for sleep. A small randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 20 healthy adults, published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2012, measured the effects of consuming 1 oz of tart cherry juice concentrate 30 minutes before dinner over 7 days. Compared to the placebo group, the juice group experienced significant elevations in total Melatonin levels, contributing to significant boosts in total sleep time, sleep efficiency, and total time in bed.

Another small placebo-controlled 2018 study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics enlisted participants over the age of 50 with ongoing insomnia. Those in the tart cherry juice group consumed 1 cup (240 ml) twice daily over 2 weeks. Compared to the placebo group, the juice group increased total sleep time by 84 minutes, as well as logged better scores for sleep efficiency on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. They also showed an increase in tryptophan availability, which may be partially responsible for alleviating some symptoms of insomnia.

Although these studies used small sample sizes, both showed tart cherry juice benefits for sleep in generally healthy adults and older adults with insomnia. Better yet, while many dietary supplements can take weeks or months for the benefits to kick in, participants were able to log several markers of improved sleep in only 1 or 2 weeks’ time.

Is Tart Cherry Juice Better Than Melatonin?

Although tart cherry juice is a natural source of Melatonin (as well as tryptophan, which aids in the production of the sleep hormone), drinking it isn’t the same thing as taking a Melatonin supplement.

Based on the research to date, tart cherry juice may be most beneficial for those who:

  • Struggle to log enough time asleep
  • Have poor sleep efficiency (i.e., a subpar ratio between the time you’re actually asleep and the time you dedicate to sleep)
  • Have a history of insomnia

Since tart cherry juice boosts the body’s Melatonin content and tryptophan availability with daily intake, you’ll also need to stay committed to your regimen to reap its sleep-friendly rewards. However, you should consult your physician if you’re interested in taking it for long periods of time. Also be sure to double check that it won’t interfere with any health issues you have or medications you’re on.

Meanwhile, Melatonin is well-known to help you fall asleep fast upon intake. Depending on the dosage, you might feel Melatonin start to work in as little as 20 to 30 minutes, though it typically takes an hour or 2 to reach peak levels in your system. Per a 2013 meta-analysis of 19 studies published in the journal PLoS One, supplementation offers benefits for sleep quality and a modest boost in sleep duration, too. In addition, Melatonin supplements can be especially helpful for people who are traveling across time zones, do shift work, or experience restless nights every so often.

The majority of Melatonin supplements aren’t without its risks, however. Those offering 1 mg or more can flood your brain receptors and get as much as 100x more Melatonin circulating in your blood, which can lead to side effects such as:

To avoid these adverse effects, aim to take as little of a dose as possible — potentially even microdosing with clean, plant-based forms of Melatonin to get your natural levels back in balance. Last but not least, Melatonin supplements are best used for short-term supplementation. Try not to take melatonin every night for months at a time. Per the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, adults should use Melatonin for a maximum of 13 weeks at a time for short-term sleep problems, only continuing with a physician’s sign-off.

How Much Tart Cherry Juice Should You Drink for Sleep?

Healthy individuals who don’t have a sleep disorder may benefit from drinking 1 oz of tart cherry juice to improve sleep onset and duration. Meanwhile, older adults with insomnia showed a positive response by drinking 1 cup of the tonic twice daily, for a total of 2 cups per day. More high-quality research involving larger sample sizes will be helpful to gauge how much tart cherry juice can improve sleep across various populations with diverse backgrounds.

Your response to tart cherry juice will vary based on any number of factors — including your age, health status, level of activity, sleep parameters and history, and countless lifestyle considerations. It may be best to start with a modest amount of tart cherry juice (i.e., 1 or 2 oz per serving) for a week or two to gauge results, and potentially pour more if you’ve yet to experience its sleepy time health benefits.

Note: While drinking tart cherry juice before bed may work wonders for some, keep tabs on how much added sugar it packs. Excess sugar can disrupt not only your sleep but also your overall health. Seek out unsweetened varieties of tart cherry juice and buy it whenever possible. Those who need to follow a low-sugar diet for health reasons should also take extra caution or pivot to another no- to low-sugar sleep aid entirely to avoid added sugar.

When Should You Drink Tart Cherry Juice for Sleep?

So when is the best time to sip this juice to reap all the tart cherry benefits? Based on research to date, when you drink tart cherry juice might not be as pivotal as drinking it consistently. It doesn’t work instantaneously to knock you out like higher-dose Melatonin supplements. Instead, it raises Melatonin and tryptophan more steadily with continued intake over a time (albeit it in as little as a week or two).

All things considered, you might want to integrate tart cherry juice as a nightcap into your wind-down routine, which can naturally help you remember to enjoy it at the same time from one evening to the next. The best time to drink tart cherry juice for sleep could also hinge upon other factors, such as your susceptibility for waking up in the twilight hours to pee. (Wake up frequently throughout the night to head to the bathroom? You’ll be better off limiting liquids and only taking small sips closer to bedtime, as well as making sure to relieve your bladder before tucking in under the covers.)

How to Add Tart Cherry Juice to Your Bedtime Routine

Once you have your unsweetened cherry juice on hand, you have a few options to enjoy it for better sleep.

To lean into the Sleepy Girl Mocktail trend, which is loved by many for its ZZZ-friendly ingredients, stir up the following ingredients:

  • 1 tsp Berry Magnesi-Om®
  • 2 oz tart cherry juice
  • 10 oz sparkling water
  • Ice
Cellular Waters

On top of the sleep benefits that tart cherry juice provides, the 3 types of Magnesium (Chelated Magnesium Gluconate, Magnesium Acetyl Taurinate, and Magnesium Citrate) plus L-theanine in this natural Magnesium powder will ease your mind and body as it helps to:

  • Support muscle relaxation and cognitive function
  • Support digestive regularity
  • Encourage a sense of calm

Some people also enjoy taking Magnesium before bed since it:

  • Balances neurotransmitters (including GABA, which helps to slow down brain activity and promotes relaxation)
  • Regulates both the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight response) and parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest response)
  • May promote Melatonin production to fall asleep faster, for longer, with greater efficiency

Prefer to take a more simplistic approach to drinking tart cherry juice? You can drink it solo via a 1- or 2-oz shot, or perhaps a full cup before bedtime. If the taste is too much for your tastebuds, you can always dilute it with water.

The Takeaway

Drinking tart cherry juice before bed shows the potential to help people — including those with insomnia — log more ZZZ’s with greater ease. Just remember that it’s not a panacea for any and all sleep woes, and that it might be more beneficial for some than others. Finding healthy ways to manage your stress levels, adhering to a nutritious and well-balanced diet, and giving yourself the time and space to relax before bedtime will all advance your goals for better sleep. Opting for this trending tonic is just one part of the larger picture for restful nights and improved well-being.