One of my sponsors for 2015 is tart cherries, which officially satisfied my college dream of “being sponsored by food.” My job is simple. To eat and drink them (which I already did), and to let people know why tart cherries are special now and then, which is pretty easy because they have distinct, and well studied super powers. A while back I wrote about how they can help with recovery, which is something I’ve known forever, but I only recently learned that tart cherries have been shown to help with my biggest weakness of all: sleep.
Bottom line: I suck at sleep.
Here’s an example from this week of a typical nights sleep for me when I’m suffering from mild insomnia. As you can see, I couldn’t fall asleep until after 1am, but once I was in bed I had pretty good sleep efficiency. Out of 6 hours and 30 minutes I was truly asleep for 6 hours and 20 minutes. Not bad. Other nights, it is not uncommon for me to be in bed for 8 hours but only be truly “sleeping” for 6 hours 30 minutes. The tick marks on the chart indicate sleep disturbances of varying severity.
This is concerning to me, obviously. Not only is it my job to recover and sleep, but sleep disturbances are a risk factor for all sorts of long term health problems, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease that both run in my family. Problem is, sleep has been an issue for so long that I’ve almost given up on doing anything about it. I’ve gotten in the habit of just powering through, and having a baby just made that worse.
About 1/3 of Americans have sleep problems, and sleep medications sales are going bonkers. Aside from the occasional mega flu where I’ll take NyQuil, I don’t feel comfortable taking medication for sleep. I have taken melatonin with success when I travel internationally, or to the East Coast for a competition to help me get on a new sleep schedule, but I hate feeling like I’m dependent on a pill for something, even if it is “natural.”
Turns out tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, not to mention a bunch of other things that help regulate sleep wake cycles. Definitely booyah-worthy, and makes me want to make a new Picky Bar flavor.
One study found that adults who drank two servings of tart cherry juice slept 40 minutes longer and increased sleep efficiency by 6% over the placebo group. Another study on older adults with insomnia showed an increase in 84 minutes of sleep per night. Needless to say, this gets me motivated. Even half an hour would make a big difference for me.
For the past 6 months, I’ve been picking up bottles of tart cherry juice at Trader Joes and have been taking shots around tougher training sessions to help with recovery, but haven’t been using it consistently enough to see a difference in my sleep. What it’s going to take is a nutritional strategy, and monitoring the data with my Reign.
At night I’ll have an 8oz glass of tart cherry juice. That’s never a struggle because I like something sweet before bed, but now that I know there’s melatonin in it, I’ll be even more excited about it.
But the mornings…I don’t like juice in the morning. It’s coffee all the way. So, I came up with a recipe that makes my standard breakfast way better and gets my second serving in at the same time. It’s Cherry Pie Oatmeal. It’s good. And it’s easy to make.
Cherry Pie Oatmeal
Calories: 300-500, depending on how many toppings you like.
- ½ cup 5 minute oats.
- 1 cup tart cherry juice
- splash of half and half (optional)
- toppings (I use dried tart cherries and pecans, and a little fresh ground cinnamon sugar)
Heat 1 cup of tart cherry juice in a saucepan until just before a boil. Add the oats, stir, and reduce the heat to medium low. Let it cook 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it looks thick and ready to eat. Remove from heat. Add a splash of half and half, stir, and put it in your bowl. Add toppings!
For the chef’s out there, if someone can come up with a good oatmeal cookie recipe using tart cherry juice, dried cherries and chocolate chips, please share it with me! I will love you forever. That would be a killer way to, (as the tart cherry people say,) “Go Red Before Bed,” and maybe they’d even put it up on www.choosecherries.com.
I hope this helps some of the insomniacs out there, including me, and eases the Daylight Savings strain on everyone’s sleep coming up this week. If you try the oatmeal recipe, or have any interesting variations, let me know!
Yours in Zzzzz’s,