Are Cherries the #1 Food For Sleep?

Studies have shown that consuming cherries can improve sleep quality by increasing melatonin levels in the body. Melatonin is a hormone responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycles. When we have low levels of melatonin, we may experience difficulty sleeping or staying asleep throughout the night.

Types of cherries with high melatonin content

Tart cherries for better sleep

If you’re looking to improve your sleep, tart cherries are a great option. Two types of tart cherries that have been shown to contain high levels of melatonin are Montmorency and Balaton.

Montmorency cherries, also known as sour cherries, are bright red and have a tangy flavor. They’re often used in pies and other baked goods, but they can also be eaten fresh or dried. Studies have found that drinking Montmorency cherry juice can help improve sleep quality and duration in adults with insomnia.

Balaton cherries are another type of tart cherry that’s high in melatonin. These dark red fruits have a sweeter flavor than Montmorency cherries and are often used for making jam or preserves.

Sweet cherries also contain melatonin

While tart cherries have higher levels of melatonin than sweet cherries, it’s worth noting that sweet cherries still contain this sleep-promoting hormone. In fact, one study found that eating sweet cherry products such as juice or concentrate improved sleep quality in older adults.

All cherries, even the sweet ones, contain some melatonin.

Sweet cherries come in a variety of colors including yellow, pink, and dark red. They’re typically eaten fresh but can also be used in recipes like pies and smoothies.

Other fruits with small amounts of melatonin

If you’re not a fan of cherries or want to mix up your fruit intake, there are several other options that contain small amounts of melatonin:

  • Bananas: This popular fruit contains tryptophan which is an amino acid that helps the body produce serotonin and melatonin.

  • Pineapples: In addition to containing vitamin C and potassium, pineapples also have small amounts of melatonin.

  • Oranges: These citrus fruits may not be the first thing you think of, but they do contain some melatonin.

How much melatonin is in tart cherries?

Tart Cherry Juice vs. Whole Tart Cherries

If you’re looking for a natural way to improve your sleep, you may have heard that cherries are a great option. But how much melatonin do they actually contain? Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, and it’s naturally present in some foods, including cherries.

A cup (140g) of tart cherry juice contains around 68-300 ng of melatonin, depending on the brand and type of juice. This is significantly more than what’s found in whole tart cherries. A cup (140 g) of whole tart cherries contains around 1-13 ng of melatonin.

So if you want to get the most melatonin from cherries, drinking tart cherry juice may be your best bet. However, keep in mind that tart cherry juice also tends to be higher in sugar and calories than whole cherries.

Sweet Cherries vs. Tart Cherries

It’s worth noting that sweet cherries contain less melatonin than their tart counterparts. While there isn’t as much research on sweet cherry varieties specifically, one study found that Montmorency tart cherry juice increased melatonin levels significantly more than Bing sweet cherry juice.

So if you’re specifically looking for a source of melatonin to help with sleep, it’s best to stick with tart cherries or products made from them.

Tart Cherry Extract

Another option for getting the benefits of tart cherries without consuming large quantities is using a supplement such as tart cherry extract. These supplements typically come in pill or powder form and can be easier to incorporate into your routine than drinking large amounts of juice or eating lots of fruit.

However, it’s important to choose a high-quality supplement from a reputable brand and talk to your doctor before adding any new supplements to your routine.

Benefits of consuming cherries for better sleep

Reduce insomnia symptoms and increase total sleep time

Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. Studies have shown that drinking tart cherry juice can help reduce insomnia symptoms and increase total sleep time. In fact, one study found that adults who drank two glasses of tart cherry juice per day slept 39 minutes longer on average.

Improve the quality and duration of sleep

Melatonin in cherries not only helps regulate our circadian rhythm but also improves the quality and duration of sleep. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that participants who drank cherry juice had a moderate benefit improving their sleep.

Phytochemicals in cherries

Cherries contain phytochemicals such as anthocyanins that possess antioxidant properties that aid healthy brain function promoting restful sleeping patterns. These compounds help to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm by increasing melatonin production, a hormone that promotes sleep.


The presence of tryptophan amino acid facilitates serotonin production leading to improved mood regulation. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood and promote feelings of happiness and well-being. When serotonin levels are low, it can lead to depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Anti-inflammatory effects

The anti-inflammatory effects present within cherry compounds assist with reducing inflammation and pain which can lead to better sleep quality. Inflammation has been linked to various sleep disorders such as insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea.

How many cherries do I need to eat for better sleep?

Consuming a handful of cherries or drinking a glass of tart cherry juice before bed may improve sleep quality.

Cherries are known to be rich in melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Studies have shown that consuming cherries or tart cherry juice before bedtime may help improve the quality and duration of your sleep. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that participants who drank tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks experienced significant improvements in their sleep patterns.

The exact amount of cherries needed for better sleep varies from person to person.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. The amount can vary depending on factors such as age, weight, and overall health status. However, most studies suggest that consuming around 20-30 cherries or drinking 8-12 ounces of tart cherry juice daily can provide beneficial effects on sleep quality.

It’s worth noting that while cherries are generally safe and healthy, they contain natural sugars and should be consumed in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet. If you have any underlying health conditions or concerns about incorporating more cherries into your diet, it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider first.

Regular consumption of cherries over time may have cumulative benefits on sleep.

While consuming a handful of cherries or drinking tart cherry juice before bed can provide immediate benefits on sleep quality, regular consumption over time may lead to cumulative benefits. A 2014 study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics found that participants who consumed tart cherry juice daily for seven days experienced significant improvements in their sleep efficiency compared to those who did not consume the juice.

Incorporating more cherries into your diet can also provide other health benefits beyond improving your sleep.

Tart cherry juice vs whole cherries: which is better for sleep?

Both tart cherry juice and whole cherries contain melatonin and offer potential benefits for improving sleep.

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. It helps to promote restful sleep by reducing the time it takes to fall asleep and improving overall sleep quality. Both tart cherry juice and whole cherries are natural sources of melatonin, making them effective options for those struggling with insomnia or other sleep disorders.

Tart cherry juice has higher concentrations of melatonin than whole cherries.

Tart cherry juice is made from sour or tart cherries, which have been found to contain higher levels of melatonin than sweet cherries. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that drinking tart cherry juice increased melatonin levels in adults with insomnia, resulting in improved sleep duration and quality. Because tart cherry juice is a liquid, it may be easier for the body to absorb compared to solid foods like whole cherries.

Whole cherries provide additional health benefits such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

While tart cherry juice may be more effective at promoting sleep due to its higher concentration of melatonin, whole cherries offer additional health benefits that should not be overlooked. Cherries are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and other important nutrients. Eating whole cherries can help improve digestion, boost immunity, reduce inflammation in the body, and support overall health.

Other health benefits of consuming cherries

Antioxidants, nutrients, and disease prevention

Montmorency cherries are known for their ability to improve sleep quality due to their high melatonin content. However, cherries have many other health benefits that make them a great addition to your diet.

One of the most significant benefits of consuming cherries is their high antioxidant content. Antioxidants protect against oxidative stress in the body, which can lead to chronic inflammation and disease. Cherries contain a variety of antioxidants, including anthocyanins, flavonols, and phenolic acids.

Research has shown that regular cherry consumption may lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. For example:

  • A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found consuming tart cherry juice reduced levels of inflammatory markers in overweight and obese adults.

  • A study published in Cancer Letters found that cherry extract inhibited the growth of colon cancer cells.

In addition to their antioxidant properties, cherries are also a good source of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and other important nutrients. One cup (154 grams) of fresh cherries contains:

  • Fiber: 3 grams

  • Vitamin C: 16% of the Daily Value (DV)

  • Potassium: 10% DV

  • Copper: 5% DV

  • Manganese: 4% DV

  • Vitamin K: 3% DV

Cherries are also low in calories and rich in water content. This makes them an excellent choice for anyone trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

To incorporate more cherries into your diet, try adding them to smoothies or oatmeal for breakfast. You can also snack on fresh or dried cherries throughout the day or use them as a topping for salads or desserts.

Potential Side Effects of Consuming Too Many Cherries

Interference with Blood-Thinning Medications

Cherries contain natural compounds called salicylates, which have blood-thinning properties similar to aspirin. While this can be beneficial for some individuals, it can also be dangerous for those taking blood-thinning medications like warfarin. Consuming large amounts of cherry products while on these medications can increase the risk of bleeding and other complications.

It’s important to note that these potential side effects are generally only seen when consuming large amounts of cherries or cherry products. In moderation, cherries are a delicious and nutritious addition to any diet. If you experience any adverse reactions after consuming cherries or cherry products, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider to determine the cause and appropriate course of action.


Cherries are a natural and delicious way to improve your sleep. Tart cherries, particularly Montmorency cherries, have high levels of melatonin which helps regulate your body’s internal clock. Consuming cherries or drinking tart cherry juice before bedtime can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Along with improving sleep quality, cherries offer other health benefits such as reducing inflammation and promoting heart health. However, it is important to consume cherries in moderation as overconsumption can lead to potential side effects such as stomach upset. So next time you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, consider adding some cherries to your diet for a tasty and effective solution.


1. Can I eat any type of cherry for better sleep?

While all types of cherries contain some amount of melatonin, tart cherries such as Montmorency cherries have the highest levels.

2. How many cherries should I eat before bed?

Studies suggest that consuming around 100-200 grams (or about 1 cup) of fresh or frozen tart cherries or drinking tart cherry juice can improve sleep quality.

3. Can children eat cherries for better sleep?

Yes, but it is recommended to consult with a pediatrician first.

4. Is it safe to consume cherry supplements instead of whole or juiced fruit?

It is always best to consume whole foods rather than supplements whenever possible as they provide additional nutrients and fiber.

5. Are there any alternatives to consuming whole or juiced cherries for better sleep?

Other foods high in melatonin include almonds, walnuts, bananas, and oats which may also be beneficial for improving sleep quality.


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James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 


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