Tart Cherry Juice for Sleep: Better than Tylenol PM?

Photo credit: TimWilson

While vacationing in Florida at my parents’ house, bedtime came quickly the first night and out came the tart cherry juice. At first I thought my wild parents decided to enjoy another glass of red wine, which I wouldn’t put past them in their rowdy retirement lifestyle that now includes late-night line dancing and swims with alligators. My dad–nutrition questionner extraordinnaire–poured himself a 4-oz. glass. “I’ve had so much trouble sleeping lately and the last few nights with this magic elixir have been amazing!”

We all have trouble sleeping occasionally, and it’s true that foods naturally rich in the antioxidant and sleep hormone melatonin (tart cherries, bananas, tomatoes, oats, rice bran, sweet corn, wheatgrass juice, and ginger) or the amino acid and serotonin precursor tryptophan (soy, almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, spirulina, beans, and tofu) can help our noisy brains take it down a notch when our heads hit the pillow. But, how much sleepy food do we need and how many calories can we afford just to get a good night’s rest?

Since my first pregnancy nearly 7 years ago, I got in the habit of enjoying an open-face peanut butter or almond butter and banana sandwich at bedtime, to not only help prevent a ravenous 3 AM wake-up, but to calm my unruly hormonal brain which would otherwise start recounting 4th grade spelling bees. Since I now chase 3 young kids and dirty dishes from dawn till dusk, falling asleep at bedtime isn’t usually an issue. But on nights when I’m extra “busy,” could tart cherry juice work just as well as my PB&B? This week, I’ve tested it out:

Keep in mind this test was done on an 8-day vacation where the biggest stressor was deciding whether or not to take the morning swim in the backyard pool or the large club poolbut still, there was enough activity that winding down at the end of the day may have been tricky.

How I cherried: 4 oz Very Cherre 15-30 minutes before bed: 65 calories, 10.5 g sugar. Bedtime was 10-10:30 PM. I know it’s vacation, but the kids are up at 5:30 sometimes. Can you blame me?

What happened: Fell asleep within 5 minutes of head hitting the pillow, except the night I had the Dixie Chick’s “There’s Your Trouble” stuck in my head. That night it took 5-10 minutes to fall asleep. No trouble here!

So?: If falling asleep or staying asleep are potential problems, tart cherry juice is definitely worth a try. Even if it doesn’t work, you’re getting a hefty dose of antioxidants, some potential arthritis relief, and half your day’s supply of vitamin C in a low-cal, 4-oz glass. And, there’s a chance having the juice in the AM and the PM may work even better than solely @ bedtime (according to Dr. Weil).

This just in… you MUST try The Sleep Doctor’s Sleep Slim Smoothie courtesy of Dr. Oz. Sweet Dreams!

What other foods or drinks help YOU unwind?

Fun Food Fact Friday: Pawpaws!

Photo by: Veggie Gardening Tips

I always thought I was on the cutting edge of produce. Straight out of college I helped rally two ultimate frisbee teams into calling themselves “Jicama” and ” the Yams” (Eventhough one guy was lobbying hard for “Silence of the Yams”). So when Dr. (we’ll call him) ‘Pennsylvania’ showed up to work with pawpaws, I was floored. “They taste like custard.” A fruit that tastes like custard? Nature is so sneaky and so brilliant! And yes, after getting my paws on the pawpaw, it was confirmed. Pawpaws without the lima-bean sized black pits and peel are creamy with subtle pineapple and banana flavors. Deciduously delicious!

So now I’ve done some research. Nicknamed the “Hoosier Banana,” pawpaws are the largest fruit native to America (conveniently sized to fit in a human paw). The reason we don’t see them in the Whole Foods Market produce section? They have very specific growing conditions and are currently found mostly in the eastern U.S. Their shelf life is short… 2-3 days, but up to 3 weeks if refrigerated. The real kicker is that they’re not self-pollinating, and require cross pollination from unrelated pawpaw trees (when this happens, it’s a minor miracle). AND pollination-enthusiast bees show no interest in pawpaw flowers. How rude! So, pollination is dependent on lazy flies and beetles. Therefore, hand-pollination is key. If you’re interested in trying a pawpaw, your best bet is to plant your own tree, and then enjoy every tidbit of it!

Ever had a pawpaw? I want to hear all about it!