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What does apple juice do for sleep?

Getting adequate, high-quality sleep is crucial for health and wellbeing. However, many people struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. This can lead to daytime fatigue, difficulties concentrating, and even health problems over time. Finding natural, safe ways to promote better sleep is an area of interest for many sleep-deprived individuals. Some claim that drinking apple juice before bed can help induce and maintain sleep. But what does the research say? Here, we’ll explore the potential effects of apple juice on sleep and examine the evidence behind this claim.

How Apple Juice Might Promote Sleep

There are a few reasons why apple juice, in particular, is believed to impact sleep:

  • Contains tryptophan – Tryptophan is an amino acid that can help the brain produce melatonin and serotonin, two hormones that regulate sleep.
  • High in antioxidants – Antioxidants like polyphenols found in apple juice may help reduce inflammation that can interfere with sleep.
  • Natural source of carbohydrates – The right amount of carbs before bed may help induce sleepiness.
  • Promotes relaxation – The sweet taste and aroma of apple juice may have a calming, relaxing effect.

Let’s look at the scientific evidence behind each of these potential mechanisms:

Tryptophan Content

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid needed for the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin helps regulate sleep cycles and melatonin helps control circadian rhythms. Research indicates that tryptophan supplementation can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and improve sleep quality.

Food Tryptophan per 100 grams
Turkey 330 mg
Cheese 210 mg
Soybeans 220 mg
Chicken 190 mg
Apple juice 5 mg

As the table shows, while apple juice does contain tryptophan, the levels are quite low compared to foods like turkey, cheese, and soybeans. The tryptophan in one glass of apple juice provides only around 1-2% of the recommended daily intake. Therefore, apple juice is not considered a significant source of this amino acid. More research is needed to determine if the small amount of tryptophan in apple juice has any meaningful impact on serotonin or melatonin levels.

Antioxidant Content

Apple juice is rich in antioxidants, including polyphenols like quercetin, catechin, phloridzin, and chlorogenic acid. Research shows that antioxidants help reduce inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is linked to poor sleep quality because pro-inflammatory cytokines can interfere with circadian rhythms and other aspects of sleep regulation.

However, it’s unclear whether the antioxidants in a glass of apple juice are enough to make a significant difference in sleep. Whole apples contain much higher antioxidant levels than apple juice. Drinking juice doesn’t provide the same anti-inflammatory benefits as getting antioxidants from an overall healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, tea, and other plant foods. So while the polyphenols in apple juice may contribute, they are unlikely to have major effects on sleep.

Carbohydrate Content

Some research has investigated the potential role of carbohydrate-rich drinks as a sleep aid. Simple carbohydrates appear to help reduce sleep onset latency, meaning they may help you fall asleep faster. A small study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a juice made from tart cherries helped increase melatonin levels and improve quality of sleep.

Apple juice contains about 20-30 grams of carbohydrate per cup, mainly as simple sugars like glucose, sucrose, and fructose. The rise in blood sugar from the carbohydrates may help tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier to enter the brain and produce serotonin. But blood sugar can also rapidly crash after a sugar-heavy drink. This can actually disrupt sleep later in the night as blood sugar drops low. Overall, the impact of the carbohydrates in apple juice on sleep-related hormones and sleep quality needs further investigation.

Relaxing Effects

Many people find the sweet taste and smell of apple juice comforting. This may promote relaxation at nighttime, setting the stage for better sleep. However, the relaxing effects are likely psychological rather than physiological. Studies show that warm milk has similar soothing, sleep-inducing effects. Yet, milk does not contain significant levels of tryptophan or antioxidants. This indicates that comfort foods and drinks can make us feel sleepy simply because we associate them with bedtime. More controlled studies are needed to determine if apple juice has direct physical relaxing properties beyond a placebo effect.

Potential Downsides of Apple Juice Before Bed

While apple juice appears safe overall, there are a few potential downsides to consider:

  • May disrupt sleep due to nocturia – Nocturia is excessive urination during the night. The liquid from apple juice may increase urine production and nighttime bathroom trips.
  • Contains sugars – High sugar drinks like juice can cause energy crashes later in the night as blood sugar drops.
  • May cause acid reflux – The acidity in apple juice may worsen nighttime heartburn and GERD symptoms.
  • Not the healthiest choice – Apple juice doesn’t provide the full nutrition of whole apples. It’s high in sugar with less fiber and protein.

For those prone to nocturia or acid reflux, apple juice close to bedtime could be counterproductive for sleep. Water would be a better choice to promote hydration without affecting sleep. Overall, any benefits of apple juice on sleep appear small. So it may not be worth the negatives for many individuals.

Other Potential Natural Sleep Aids

Beyond apple juice, here are some other science-backed natural options for promoting sleep:

Tart Cherry Juice

As mentioned earlier, a small study found tart cherry juice increased melatonin levels and improved quality of sleep. Tart cherries contain more tryptophan than apple juice. They’re also high in the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin.

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile contains apigenin, an antioxidant that may help initiate sleepiness. Drinking chamomile tea is associated with improved sleep quality and reduced anxiety and depression.

Valerian Root

Valerian is an herb that acts as a mild sedative. It increases production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that regulates nerve impulses and calms nervous activity. Valerian also contains antioxidants. Multiple studies demonstrate valerian reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and improves sleep quality.


Magnesium deficiency can cause chronic insomnia. Supplementing with magnesium improves sleep onset, sleep time, and melatonin levels. Magnesium-rich foods include nuts, seeds, legumes, leafy greens, whole grains, and yogurt. A glass of warm milk is another source, which may explain milk’s reputation as a sleep aid.


L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea. It boosts alpha waves in the brain, creating a state of relaxation. L-theanine increases serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. Preliminary evidence suggests L-theanine significantly improves sleep quality.

Sleep Aid Effects on Sleep
Tart Cherry Juice Increases melatonin; improves sleep quality
Chamomile Tea Reduces anxiety; improves sleep quality
Valerian Root Falls asleep faster; better sleep quality
Magnesium Better sleep onset; increased sleep time
L-theanine Boosts relaxation; enhances sleep quality

This table summarizes the research findings on some of the most effective natural sleep aids.

The Bottom Line

Science has yet to definitively prove that drinking apple juice before bed will help you fall asleep faster or sleep more soundly throughout the night. Small studies suggest apple juice may support production of certain sleep-regulating neurotransmitters and hormones. However, the impacts appear relatively minor compared to other evidence-based natural sleep aids. Apple juice is not a significant source of tryptophan and it does not provide major anti-inflammatory benefits.

Potential downsides like increased nighttime urination and blood sugar fluctuations may actually disrupt sleep. Those looking to experiment with apple juice should consume a small glass about 30 minutes before bedtime and monitor effects closely. Keep in mind that juice is high in sugar with less nutrition than whole apples. Ultimately, to improve sleep, focus on an overall healthy lifestyle – including stress management, exercise, and a nutrient-rich diet. Tart cherry juice, chamomile tea, magnesium, valerian, and L-theanine have more robust science behind their sleep-enhancing effects. But be sure to consult your doctor if considering taking any new supplements regularly.