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As parents know, long summer days usually mean later bedtimes. Getting enough sleep is foundational for health and wellness, and children 6 to 12 years of age need up to 12 hours of sleep each night.  Unfortunately, estimates show that up to 50% of kids aren’t getting enough sleep (1).

Two young children sit at a kitchen table drinking cherry juice (Dr. Green Mom's bedtime mocktail).

In an effort to maintain our sleep routine and bedtime, this summer my family has begun to sip a sleepy time drink to help us wind down after dinner. The tart cherry juice and magnesium in this bedtime mocktail naturally enhance sleep!

After this bedtime ritual each night, my kiddos know it’s time to head upstairs for a book and bed. In this article, I’ll describe the benefits of tart cherry juice and magnesium that promote restful sleep and share my recipe. 

Note: this recipe was inspired by the Sleepy Girl Mocktail that went viral on social media this year.

The Benefits Of Tart Cherry Juice For Enhanced Sleep 

Tart cherry juice’s effectiveness in promoting sleep primarily stems from its melatonin content while its magnesium content and anti-inflammatory properties play supporting roles. This illustrates the entourage effect of nutrient-rich foods where the combined benefits of multiple components create a greater impact than each individual component. Nature knows best!

Tart Cherry Juice As A Source Of Natural Melatonin

Tart cherry juice is a natural source of melatonin – a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. In a double blind study, participants who drank tart cherry juice for a week had significantly higher levels of melatonin in their urine samples than those who did not (2). In the same study, participants in the tart cherry juice group experienced significant increases in time in bed, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency total!

The Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Tart Cherry Juice

Inflammation and sleep are tightly linked. Sleep deprivation is well known to cause increases in inflammation. However, inflammatory balance also plays a role in sleep regulation, sleep length, and sleep quality (3).  Packed with antioxidants like anthocyanins and quercetin, tart cherry juice reduces inflammation (4,5). This anti-inflammatory effect might improve sleep quality in those experiencing higher than ideal levels of inflammation. 

Tart Cherry Plus Additional Magnesium

One 4 oz serving of tart cherry juice naturally contains about 13 mg of magnesium, which is high for a juice but still not a significant amount. Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzyme systems, including sleep regulation and muscle relaxation (6, 7). I like to increase the total magnesium count of my mocktail by adding magnesium powder to the tart cherry juice drink. This helps my family get the most benefit from this yummy mocktail!

A note on nightly bedtime routines:

Establishing a nightly bedtime routine serves as a powerful signal to a child that it is time to unwind and prepare for sleep. Bedtime routines can include books or stories, bathtime, or even a soothing drink – such as this tasty mocktail! 

For more help with creating a bedtime routine, check out this article: Sleep Essentials For Kids – Dr. Green Mom.

Who Should Not Have Tart Cherry Juice?

I do not recommend giving tart cherry juice to babies under one year of age. Starting at age one, you could give a small amount (about 1 oz) diluted with water to your child. As your child grows, you could add an additional 1 oz per year. A two year old could have two oz, until you reach 4 oz at age four. I would hold off on adding magnesium in this mocktail until age four unless you are working with a professional who is able to guide you on dosing. 

If you are taking blood thinners, antibiotics, or corticosteroids you should speak to your doctor before adding in tart cherry juice, as it can interact with these medications.

Tart cherry juice is likely safe to consume during pregnancy and breastfeeding; however, there are currently no specific studies showing so. As a general rule, I would advise pregnant or breastfeeding mamas not to consume more than 8 oz per day. 

Dr Green Mom’s Bedtime Mocktail Recipe

Enjoy this refreshing bedtime mocktail with my simple recipe (suitable for ages 4+).

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup organic tart cherry juice
  • ½ cup sparkling water
  • A splash of fresh citrus juice to taste – I love using orange juice!
  • ½ to 1 serving (by age) of Dr Green Mom Mighty Magnesium Powder

Instructions:

  1. In a glass, combine tart cherry juice and sparkling water.
  2. Add a squeeze of fresh citrus juice to invigorate your mocktail.
  3. Stir in the magnesium powder until fully dissolved.
  4. Optional: Serve in a fancy glass to maximize enjoyment!

A note on liquids before bed:

For some kids, too much liquid intake 1-2 hours before bed can cause them to wet the bed. If this is the case, you may want to find other ways to encourage sleep

Summary

Getting adequate sleep is essential for the overall health and well-being of the entire family. My tart cherry bedtime mocktail is one way to promote restful sleep!

This tasty mocktail contains tart cherry juice – a natural source of melatonin – and magnesium – a mineral crucial for sleep regulation and relaxation. 

I hope this recipe brings your family peaceful summer nights that allow for days filled with sunshine and adventure!

References:

  1. Children and Sleep: An Introduction to the Importance of Sleep in Children and How to Help Them Sleep Better. (2023). Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/children-and-sleep
  2. Howatson, G., Bell, P. G., Tallent, J., Middleton, B., McHugh, M. P., & Ellis, J. (2012). Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. European journal of nutrition, 51(8), 909–916. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-011-0263-7
  3. Irwin, M. R., & Opp, M. R. (2017). Sleep Health: Reciprocal Regulation of Sleep and Innate Immunity. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 42(1), 129–155. https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2016.148
  4. Connolly, D. A., McHugh, M. P., Padilla-Zakour, O. I., Carlson, L., & Sayers, S. P. (2006). Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. British journal of sports medicine, 40(8), 679–683. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2005.025429
  5. Chai, S. C., Davis, K., Zhang, Z., Zha, L., & Kirschner, K. F. (2019). Effects of Tart Cherry Juice on Biomarkers of Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Older Adults. Nutrients, 11(2), 228. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11020228
  6. Schwalfenberg, G. K., & Genuis, S. J. (2017). The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare. Scientifica, 2017, 4179326. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4179326
  7. Dasdelen, et al (2022). A Novel Theanine Complex, Mg-L-Theanine Improves Sleep Quality via Regulating Brain Electrochemical Activity. Frontiers in nutrition, 9, 874254. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2022.874254
Dr. Green Mom

Dr. Mayer is a naturopathic medical doctor and an expert in nutrition and wellness as it relates to pediatrics and families. Her passion for prevention of disease as cure fueled her desire to immerse herself into specializing in adult onset chronic conditions, as well as childhood chronic illness.

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