Why Cherries Are the Perfect Midnight Snack

Joanna Douglas
Senior Editor

Photo: David Arky/Trunk Archive

My earliest memory is climbing out of my crib in the middle of the night and pressing the triangular play button on the VCR to watch taped episodes of The Muppet Show. (Yes, really). My wacky sleep schedule continued to work well in college, but my 2AM bedtime and restless sleep doesn’t jive well for morning productivity as a real grown up. The other downside? My nightly craving for sweets when everyone else is tucked in bed. Two weeks ago, however, I discovered something better than any advice I’ve received from sleep specialists: cherries.

Where counting sheep, meditation, supplements, and silk sleep masks have failed to help, a handful of ripe cherries every night before bed made me yawn uncontrollably around 11:30PM. After a week of munching my way through a big bag, I was puzzled when I couldn’t wait to get in bed before midnight and slept through till morning. After some digging, I found a study by Dr. Russell J. Reiter, professor of neuroendocrinology at The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, who found evidence that cherries are a natural source of melatonin, the chemical that regulates sleep. Sure enough, he says, eating a handful can make you drowsy within an hour.

In fact, it turns out there’s a whole host of reasons that cherries should remain a permanent fixture in my diet. Made up of 75-percent water and packed with fiber, they’ll make you feel fuller longer and lower your cholesterol. Loaded with antioxidants, cherries have been known to fight off free radicals and signs of aging, and even potentially prevent cancer and heart disease. Anything that packs that kind of punch is worth dealing with a few pesky pits. And don’t worry, when their season ends, dried cherries and tart cherry juice work the same magic. How sweet is that?