To see which bedtime beverage may reign supreme in your quest to catch more ZZZ’s, we consulted behavioral sleep specialist Carleara Weiss, PhD, MS, RN.
- Carleara Weiss, PhD, MS, RN, scientist and the founder of Dr. Weiss Sleep Education
Tart cherry juice vs. chamomile tea for sleep
While Dr. Weiss says that both drinks can support a better night’s rest, their ability to do so varies, as they have different sleep-friendly constituents. To start, tart cherry juice contains melatonin—the famous sleep supplement, but also a hormone our bodies produce naturally—which helps signal that it’s time for bed.
“Some research shows that tart cherry juice improves sleep duration and quality,” says Dr. Weiss. One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 20 healthy volunteers found that those who drank tart cherry juice for seven days had “significantly elevated” melatonin levels, as well as significant increases in time in bed, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency. Another smaller study investigated the effects of tart cherry juice supplementation for two weeks in participants over 50 who struggle with insomnia. Similar to the previous study, the researchers concluded that tart cherry juice increased sleep time and sleep efficiency—but also increased tryptophan availability and reduced inflammation. As such, tart cherry juice may be effective for occasional bouts of unrest as well as for ongoing insomnia.
On the other hand, chamomile tea can promote feelings of ease and relaxation, which helps to set you up for rest—sans overactive rumination. “It has a flavonoid called apigenin, which decreases anxiety and helps to fall asleep,” Dr. Weiss says. Per one meta-analysis, sipping on chamomile tea has shown “significant improvement in sleep quality after administration,” but no significant changes in insomnia severity. Moreover, the review discovered that chamomile tea can yield significant improvements in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms in as little as two weeks.
Is one drink better than the other to support sleep?
Based on the findings above, tart cherry juice may be more suitable for those who don’t produce enough melatonin, experience a better night’s rest via melatonin supplementation, and/or have a history of insomnia. Studies on tart cherry juice for sleep demonstrate positive effects with daily ingestion over a week or two—so chances are you’ll need to stay consistent with your intake in order to max out the benefits.
Meanwhile, chamomile tea may be more effective if you lose sleep on account of stress or anxiety and want to fall asleep faster. “Studies with chamomile indicate a visible effect [for sleep] in about 30 to 45 minutes,” Dr. Weiss adds, making it “a good option for a person looking for a rapid effect since it works in less than one hour.”
However, Dr. Weiss mentions that both beverages have potential adverse side effects. “For example, tart cherry juice may cause constipation, diarrhea, excessive hunger, and memory loss,” she says. The sleep specialist also notes that people who take blood thinners (such as aspirin or cholesterol medication) should consult their medical provider before sipping on this natural sleep aid. “Chamomile tea may cause nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and in rare cases, anaphylaxis,” says Dr. Weiss. People with asthma—as well as women who are pregnant or breastfeeding—should take care to get their doctor’s clearance before integrating this drink into their bedtime routine.
Chamomile tea may be more effective if you lose sleep on account of stress or anxiety. “Studies with chamomile indicate a visible effect [for sleep] in about 30 to 45 minutes,” Dr. Weiss adds, making it “a good option for a person looking for a rapid effect since it works in less than one hour.”
The bottom line
While tart cherry juice and chamomile tea both have the potential to help you catch more restful ZZZ’s, they work differently to promote sleep quality and the “better” option will likely vary from one person to the next. With that said, if you want to experience serious improvements in your sleep game, Dr. Weiss says you’ll need to take a more holistic approach.
“I strongly support lifestyle changes and behavioral therapy to improve sleep and well-being. They are more challenging to implement and may take longer to feel the results, but they have few or no side effects and provide long-standing benefits for our health,” says Dr. Weiss.
Her top parting tips to encourage better sleep night after night include:
- Allowing for at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night
- Avoiding light from your devices before bedtime
- Dimming lights or switching to ambient lighting at least 30 minutes before sleeping
“Keep a consistent schedule during the day, too: Wake up at the same time every day, exercise regularly, and try to eat your meals at about the same time daily,” Dr Weiss says. “Combined, these behavioral changes will strengthen your ‘biological clock’ and support sleep and well-being.”
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