Dr. Dawna Ara, DACM

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Tart Cherries: A Natural Sleep Aid for Insomnia

Having trouble sleeping? If so, eating tart cherries an hour before bedtime might help.

High in antioxidants, nature’s original gum drops are brimming with nutrition.

Cherries are a natural food source of melatonin, the body’s sleep rhythm hormone. They have also been found to decrease oxidative stress and have anti inflammatory properties.

Cherries make a great dessert or late night snack, especially for those suffering from insomnia.

Why is melatonin so important?

Melatonin is an amazing hormone. Besides being involved in many areas health, it plays a part in our body’s sleep wake cycle. As the sun goes down, melatonin gets released into the bloodstream from your pineal gland, a small endocrine gland about the size of a pea in your brain.

As levels of melatonin rise in your body, you become sleepy, less alert, and your body temperature goes down. Throughout the night the levels stay up until the first hint of morning light starts to hit your eyes. As you start to wake up the pineal gland shuts down the production of melatonin and the amount in your bloodstream begins to decline. As the day goes on, your pineal gland is less active and almost no melatonin can be detected in your bloodstream until the sun starts to go down again.

In today’s world of late night working, television, bright computer screens, caffeine, and artificial light our bodies are confused. Bright light tricks your body into thinking it is still daytime long after the sun has gone down. Why is this a problem? Because natural or artificial light hitting the retina in your eyes suppress the production of melatonin.

If your body thinks it’s still daytime then your pineal gland will not produce melatonin. If you continue to stay in this pattern of staying up late, your body’s natural rhythm gets disturbed and it becomes harder and harder to go to bed naturally. Why is this so bad? Because it is during sleep that your body repairs itself. People who lack sleep are more prone to getting sick, depression, inflammation, weight gain, and could possibly have more sleep problems later on in life.

To help you get out of this cycle I recommend eating a small bowl of tart cherries around 9pm, turning down the lights, and dimming or completely shutting off your electronics. If fresh cherries are not available in your area then you can buy tart cherry juice with no added sugar and drink ½ cup before bedtime. Creating healthy patterns now will help you stay healthy and possibly avoid more serious sleep issues in the future.

About Dr. Dawna Ara, DACM
Dr. Dawna Ara is an acupuncturist, herbalist, functional medicine practitioner, a mom, wife, writer, foodie and nature lover. She teaches her patients how to live a healthy lifestyle.