Studies have shown that insomnia can be harmful to health and it increases risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes and some cancers.

Drinking tart cherry juice may naturally reduce insomnia severity without having to take sleeping pills, according a new study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food.

Researchers from University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester and VA Center of Canandaigua had 15 older adults with chronic insomnia drink 8 ounces of tart cherry juice in the morning and evening for 2 weeks. For the following 2 weeks, the subjects were given a placebo beverage.

In the result, the adults reported that insomnia severity was reduced significantly and they saved an average of 17 minutes of wake time after going to sleep.

The researchers pointed to the relatively high content of melatonin found in tart cherries for their benefits. Melatonin is a natural antioxidant that helps to regulate sleep and wake cycles.

Some researchers believe that melatonin levels may be related to aging and older adults having low level compared to young children. Melatonin’s strong antioxidant effect was found to help strengthen the immune system.

Although melatonin supplements may be used to cure insomnia, foods such as cherries may be a better alternative, according to Russel J. Reiter, Ph.D., a biomedical scientist at the University of Texas Health Science Center. "When consumed regularly, tart cherries may help regulate the body's natural sleep cycle and increase sleep efficiency, including decreasing the time it takes to fall asleep," says Reiter.