Montmorency Tart Cherry: Benefits for Sleep and Performance

  • By Performance Lab
  • 6 minute read
Montmorency Cherries

A look at the science behind one of nature’s most effective rest and recovery resources

If a new product was discovered today that could make you live longer and look better… helped you train harder and recover quicker… protected you against disease… made you feel happier… and even improved your sex life… you’d be all over it, wouldn’t you!?

Well, there’s good news… it’s already exists. And it’s FREE!

It’s called sleep.

Sleep is an essential component of physical health, performance and psychological well-being.

Better sleep means more motivation, sharper reactions, lower fatigue and quicker recovery from exercise. Protecting you against illness and injury.

The bad news is – most people fail to get enough.

An estimated 50-70 million Americans suffer from some kind of sleep disorder, damaging their health and performance.

But as is often the case, nature has the answer.

What is Montmorency tart cherry?

Nature has the wonderful ability to provide everything the body needs to live a healthy life. With the right nutrients to support your lifestyle, you’ll both look and feel great. But hectic modern lifestyles mean it can be challenging to put your nutrition first.

Good quality supplements are an ideal solution, particularly for something as fundamental as sleep. Adding to the toolkit of athletes who want to hit the gym hard and wake up fresh, rejuvenated and ready to do it all again the next day. 

Montmorency tart cherry is one of those foods that probably isn’t on your grocery list. But is absolutely packed with nutrients to support rest and recovery – and a key component of the best sleep supplements.

This is why you'll often hear sleep expertsdiscussing the benefits of tart cherry pills (or capsules) for sleep in certain dosages, for example. 

Maximal nutrition, minimal intake

Rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, Montmorency tart cherry provides just 120 kcal per 1-cup serving - that’s a lot of nutrition for minimal energy intake.

You’ll find 62% RDA of vitamin A in an 8 oz serving, as well as 14% RDA of vitamin C.

The active phenolic acids found in the fruit include chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid and ellagic acid. Plus, an abundance of flavonoids such as isorhamnetin, kaempferol, quercetin, epicatechin, catechin and procyanidin.

The main bioactive ingredient of interest in tart cherry is anthocyanin - the chemical responsible for the deep red pigmentation of cherries.

Montmorency tart cherry is packed with anti-inflammatory anthocyanins that support health and performance, thus being an effective natural sleep aid.

Cherries contain a significantly greater amount of anthocyanin compared to other fruits and can be eaten as a whole fruit, juice or powdered supplement form.

Research shows that there is a linear relationship between anthocyanin content and the degree to which tart cherry protect cells1.

The performance benefits of tart cherry for athletes

Tart cherry research is on the rise. More and more scientists are realizing that as a superfood, the deep red juice and flesh of the fruit can benefit blood flow, muscle regeneration and immune health.

As a result, tart cherry is fast becoming the go-to supplement for serious athletes wanting to take their fitness and recovery to the next level - it can help you sleep your way to optimal athletic performance.

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Athletes often suffer from muscle soreness associated with high volumes of training, as well as grueling competition. Several studies have shown that Montmorency cherries reduce oxidative damage2 caused by strength training, as well as the inflammatory response after high-intensity endurance exercise3

Montmorency cherries (tart) for strength recovery

A recently published literature review suggested that athletes should include tart cherry into their supplement regime as it promotes strength recovery4 while decreasing inflammation-led reductions in performance.

It can be taken on a daily basis but becomes even more important during periods of high training intensity or volume where muscle damage is caused.

Like other supplements, athletes should use a loading phase when using Montmorency tart cherry for muscle recovery. Dosing once or twice per day for four to five days in the lead up to competition or hard training.

The health benefits of tart cherry

Studies have shown that Montmorency cherry promotes all kinds of overall health benefits, from lowering blood cholesterol5 to reducing biomakers of inflammation6. In fact, a recent review7of cherry juice reported the following benefits:

  • Reduced oxidative stress
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Decreased HbA1C
  • Immune health boost
  • Less muscle soreness and pain
  • Reduced risk of diabetes and CVD
  • Better management of arthritis
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Improved sleep quality, mood and cognition

The importance of melatonin for optimal sleep

A key regulator of sleep quality is light exposure. If you’ve ever tried to grab a midday nap in a brightly lit room, you’ll know how hard it is. That’s because when light hits the retina in your eye, it stimulates an area of the brain called the hypothalamus - making you feel awake.

Melatonin is a natural hormone – sometimes called the ‘darkness hormone’ - produced mainly by the pineal gland located in the epithalamus region of the brain.

During the day, your pineal gland is inactive, letting you get on with your day-to-day activities. But as nightfall approaches it kicks into gear and pumps a huge dose of melatonin into your bloodstream.

Interestingly, melatonin production is blocked unless you’re in a dimly lit room - even at nighttime. New research shows that blocking melatonin receptors such as MT1 leads to wakefulness, but triggering MT1 results in a deep sleep8.

So if you’re the kind of person who watches late night TV with the lights on, you’re undoubtedly messing with your sleep cycle. Same if you’re on a laptop, tablet or phone too. They also emit blue light which inhibits melatonin production9

Late night light blocks the production of melatonin and leaves you feeling wide awake

As a serotonin derived chemical, melatonin is heavily involved in modulating sleep by regulating sleep-wake cycles. Supporting a healthy body clock.      

Typically, melatonin is taken as a medication and/or supplement by those suffering from sleep-related disorders such as insomnia, delayed sleep phase syndrome and ADHD.

But increasingly, people are looking to melatonin to support their own sleep requirements. From elite athletes to busy adults, who might work unusual hours or just have hectic schedules.

Research from PLOS Medicine in 2018 supported the use of melatonin for sleep quality due to its beneficial effects on subjective sleep measures10. During the double-blind and randomized clinical trial, adults suffering from delayed sleep-wake phase disorder were given either 0.5 mg of fast-acting melatonin or a placebo each night for a week.

Results showed that improvements in sleep quality were related to lower sleep disturbance and sleep-promoting effects.

Montmorency tart cherry and sleep research

Back in 2006, a study measured the effects of tart cherry on biomarkers of muscle damage11 in a group of 14 male college students. While the results supported the supplement as a way of reducing strength loss and muscle pain.

It was also interesting to note that some participants also reported improved sleep - which sparked off a huge interest in Montmorency tart cherry as a potentially effective sleep aid. Since then, several studies have fueled the link between tart cherry ingestion and production of melatonin.

The effects of tart cherry on melatonin production are well known. Having a significant effect on baseline urinary melatonin levels12 during bedtime, total sleep time and sleep efficiency periods.

Tart cherry has a measurable effect on exogenous melatonin production, helping to promote undisturbed sleep

In one randomized crossover study13, a group of older adults suffering with insomnia were administered either 8 oz of Montmorency tart cherry as a supplement or placebo for two weeks. Then after a two-week washout period, the tart cherry and placebo were exchanged.

Results indicated that tart cherry increased sleep time by nearly 90 minutes on average compared to placebo.

Similarly, a study using polysomnography to measure sleep quality found that a daily dose of cherry juice (480 ml) resulted in increased sleep time and efficiency14. With reduced inflammatory biomarkers and increased tryptophan availability – a key amino acid used to make melatonin.


Sleep is an essential component of physical health, performance and psychological well-being.

Without it we simply don’t function properly.

If it wasn’t so important, we would’ve evolved out of it by now. Anything that left prehistoric man so vulnerable to predators and the elements for such a big chunk of the day must have some pretty solid logic behind it, right? 

If you’re not getting enough, your performance will suffer. And if you’re pushing your body hard in the gym or on the track, you could be risking illness or injury.

Montmorency tart cherry has been clinically shown to support muscle recovery and improve sleep quality. Popping your cherry in supplement form will help you get the restorative sleep you need to train and compete at your maximum.