Background: Insomnia is common in the elderly and is associated with chronic disease, but use of hypnotics increases the incidence of falls. Montmorency tart cherry juice has improved insomnia by self-report questionnaire.
Study question: Is insomnia confirmed by polysomnography and is tryptophan availability a potential mechanism for treating insomnia?
Study design: A placebo-controlled balanced crossover study with subjects older than 50 years and insomnia were randomized to placebo (2 weeks) or cherry juice (2 weeks) (240 mL 2 times/d) separated by a 2-week washout.
Measures and outcomes: Sleep was evaluated by polysomnography and 5 validated questionnaires. Serum indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), the kynurenine-to-tryptophan ratio, and prostaglandin E2 were measured. In vitro, Caco-2 cells were stimulated with interferon-gamma, and the ability of cherry juice procyanidin to inhibit IDO which degrades tryptophan and stimulates inflammation was measured. The content of procyanidin B-2 and other major anthocyanins in cherry juice were determined.
Results: Eleven subjects were randomized; 3 with sleep apnea were excluded and referred. The 8 completers with insomnia increased sleep time by 84 minutes on polysomnography (P = 0.0182) and sleep efficiency increased on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (P = 0.03). Other questionnaires showed no significant differences. The serum kynurenine-to-tryptophan ratio decreased, as did the level of prostaglandin E2 (both P < 0.05). In vitro, cherry juice procyanidin B-2 dose-dependently inhibited IDO.
Conclusions: Cherry juice increased sleep time and sleep efficiency. Cherry juice procyanidin B-2 inhibited IDO, increased tryptophan availability, reduced inflammation, and may be partially responsible for improvement in insomnia.