February 2023

Tart Cherry for Sleep: The New Melatonin?

Recent concerns about melatonin overdoses have sparked interest in alternative sleep aids. Tart cherry is quickly becoming one of the most discussed options for kids – it naturally contains small amounts of melatonin and has anti-inflammatory properties. You may be getting more questions about whether it’s safe and effective.

Small clinical studies suggest that drinking tart cherry juice twice daily might somewhat improve sleep and reduce insomnia in adults, but the evidence supporting this use is very limited – and it hasn’t been studied in kids. Tart cherry fruit, fruit juice, and fruit juice concentrate all seem to be well-tolerated by adults when taken in food amounts or as a supplement for up to three months. But safety in children is unknown.

If parents still want to give tart cherry a try, suggest trying a tart cherry fruit juice without added sugar. Consuming tart cherry in food amounts isn’t expected to pose safety concerns for most kids. But it’s best to avoid supplement products until we know more. Explain that most supplements, even those specifically marketed for children, haven’t been thoroughly tested for safety in kids. Counsel parents to be cautious and to discuss these products with their pediatrician before trying them. And always check the safety section of our monographs – when there is safety data for kids, we include it in a special subsection for Children.

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