Instead of downing a glass of vino or popping a sedative, try fighting insomnia au naturale next time—through melatonin. There’s been a lot of buzz concerning the antioxidant lately, and for a good reason: It controls your internal clock. Like an electric alarm clock that can be set and reset, your body’s is adjustable as well.
In a recent study, for example, people who drank an ounce of cherry juice twice a day for a week enjoyed an extra 25 minutes of sleep every night and slept more soundly.
How? Tart cherry juice is laced with tryptophan, an essential amino acid that converts into serotonin, which, in turn, transforms into melatonin in your body, says study coauthor Jason Ellis, Ph.D., the director of the Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research.
Your body naturally creates melatonin—a neurotransmitter—in the pineal gland throughout the day to control your internal clock, Ellis explained to Men’s Health.
Melatonin stabilizes your sleep and wakefulness patterns by regulating the chemicals in your body that make you feel either drowsy or alert—it doesn’t induce sleep like a pill might. If you’re a shift worker, you’re trying to overcome jetlag, or if you’re struggling with random bouts of sleeplessness, increasing your melatonin levels can help you overcome a mismatch between the timing of your internal clock and your environmental routine, Ellis says.
Apart from tart cherries, there are other melatonin-producing food sources you can eat to increase your circulating melatonin. These foods will boost your melatonin the most (in nanograms produced per gram eaten):
Sunflower seeds 29
Tart cherries (up to) 15
Strawberries (up to) 11
Sources: Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition and Food Chemistry