Does Lettuce Water Make You Sleepy? The Science Behind This Bizarre TikTok Health Trend

Author Dr Mark Watson M.D.

In recent weeks, a viral TikTok trend has taken the internet by storm, claiming that drinking lettuce water before bedtime can help you fall asleep faster. But is there any truth to this claim, or is it just another social media fad? In this article, we'll delve into the science behind lettuce water as a sleep aid and explore its historical use for promoting sleep. We'll also discuss the limitations of the available research and provide alternative strategies for improving sleep. So, let's find out if lettuce water is truly a magical elixir for a good night's sleep.

The Sedative Properties of Lettuce

Lettuce, often regarded as a low-calorie food with high water content, contains a substance called lactucarium. Lactucarium is a milky fluid secreted by certain types of lettuce, primarily found at the base of the stems. It has long been associated with sedative and pain-relieving properties, earning it the nickname "lettuce opium." The sedative effects of lactucarium are attributed to its chemical compounds, lactucopicrin and lactucin.

Ancient Medicinal Uses of Lettuce

Interestingly, the use of lettuce for its sleep-inducing qualities dates back thousands of years. Ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks cultivated lettuce and recognized its potential as a sleep aid. Romans and Greeks would consume lettuce after a meal to promote sleepiness, while the ancient Egyptians believed it could enhance both sleep and male virility. These early civilizations contributed to the cultivation of lettuce varieties with reduced bitterness, giving rise to the modern-day lettuces we consume in salads.

The Science Behind Lettuce Water for Sleep

While the TikTok trend claims to be backed by science, it's important to examine the actual research conducted on the sleep-promoting effects of lettuce. Two studies have investigated the sedative properties of lettuce, but both were conducted on animal models, specifically mice. In these studies, mice were already in a drug-induced sleep before being administered lettuce extracts. [2]

The first study used the sedative pentobarbital to induce artificial sleep in mice and examined the effects of various lettuce extracts on the duration of sleep. It found that lettuce extract increased the length of sleep in mice. The second study focused on the effects of extracts from different lettuce types, again using pentobarbital-induced sleep in mice. It observed similar sleep-promoting effects, but only when concentrated extracts were used. [3]

While these studies provide interesting insights into the potential sleep benefits of lettuce, it's important to note that animal studies very rarely necessarily translate to humans. And it's quite unlikely that the volume of lactucarium in boiled lettuce water will make you sleep better.

The TikTok Trend and Lettuce Water

The recent TikTok trend surrounding lettuce water for sleep has gained significant attention, with many individuals reporting positive experiences after trying it. However, it's essential to approach these anecdotal accounts with caution. The placebo effect may play a significant role in the perceived sleep-inducing effects of lettuce water. With one of the most pronounced effects of the placebo effect being on sleep and stress. [4]

When individuals believe that lettuce water will help them sleep, they are most likely experience a placebo response, leading to improved sleep quality.

Exploring Alternative Sleep Remedies

While lettuce water may not have substantial scientific evidence to support its sleep-promoting effects, there are alternative strategies that have shown promise in improving sleep quality. Consider trying the following:

  1. Melatonin Supplements: Melatonin is available in supplement form and can help regulate sleep-wake cycles. It is the hormone your body produces to tell you to be tired and that it's time to go to sleep. [5] It's perscibed in many counties as a first port of call before using stronger sleep aids. Generally speaking these supplements can start working within 30 minutes and are generally considered the best natural sleep aid. (There are others and we have a complete list of the best options here).

  2. Chamomile Tea or Warm Milk/Malted Drinks: All three of these have been shown in multiple studies to improve ease of going to sleep. The science behind why is a little shaky and some doctors suggest it's a mix of ritual and placebo before bed that causes these to work. Chamomile technically has some compounds as does lettuce water, but the volumes should be too low in most cases for the effects caused. [6,7]

  3. Valerian Root: Valerian root is a herbal remedy that has been used for centuries to promote sleep and actually has some decent scientific backing. They are available in supplement or tea form. [8]

  4. vitamins and minerals: Many vitamins and mineral deficiencies can cause disturbed sleep, for example even a small deficiency in your bodies magnesium requirements needs can cause poor sleep. And most American's have at least one subclinical vitamin deficiency. [9]

  5. Lavender Aromatherapy: The soothing scent of lavender has been associated with relaxation and improved sleep. Try using lavender essential oil in a diffuser or as a pillow spray. [10] Again there could simply be placebo and ritual elements that make this work, as it's hard to placebo control a trial using scent seeing as patients will obviously be aware of if their pillow smells or not.

  6. Sleep Hygiene Practices: Establishing a consistent sleep routine, creating a sleep-friendly environment, and avoiding electronic devices before bedtime can significantly improve sleep quality.

How to Make Lettuce Water for Sleep

If you're curious to try lettuce water for yourself, here's how you can prepare it. There are two main methods:

  1. Boiling Lettuce Leaves: Boil lettuce leaves of your choice in water, remove the solids, and pour the remaining liquid into a mug. Sip the warm lettuce water before bedtime.

  2. Steeping Lettuce Leaves: Place lettuce leaves in a mug and pour boiling water over them. Let the leaves steep for 5-10 minutes, similar to brewing a hot tea. Remove the lettuce leaves and drink the infused liquid.

Remember to wash your lettuce thoroughly before using it to make lettuce water, just as you would before consuming it in a salad.

Are There Any Health Risks?

Drinking lettuce water is generally harmless for most people. However, it's important to consider a few factors. First, be mindful of the quantity of liquid consumed before bedtime, as excessive intake may lead to disrupted sleep due to frequent bathroom trips. Additionally, ensure that you wash your lettuce properly to reduce pesticide exposure and remove any dirt or contaminants.

Conclusion: Is Lettuce Water Worth Trying?

While the TikTok trend may have sparked curiosity surrounding lettuce water as a sleep aid, the scientific evidence supporting its efficacy is still limited. Animal studies have shown some limited results, but more research is needed to determine whether lettuce water can induce sleep in humans. If you're struggling with sleep issues, it's best to consult with a healthcare professional who can provide personalized guidance and offer evidence-based strategies for improving sleep. 

In the meantime, you can explore alternative sleep remedies that have shown more promising results. So, while lettuce water may be a fun experiment, don't rely on it as a guaranteed solution for a restful night's sleep.

About Author

Dr Mark Watson is the founder of Center TRT, having graduated from stamford more than 20 years ago, he is an expert in the field of supplemental health, focusing on long term benefits of complimenary treatment. 


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