Does lettuce water at bedtime really help you fall asleep?

Nobody willingly battles with insomnia. After all, the benefits of a good night’s sleep are indisputable. If you’re someone who has trouble falling and staying asleep at night, you might find yourself Googling ways to fix it. On social media, Tiktokers started to hop on the lettuce water bandwagon a few years ago to help with sleep, after several people claimed it helped to make them tired and wind down. These videos have gained millions of views, leading sleep-deprived people to try it out.

So, is there any truth to the myth that drinking lettuce water will help you fall asleep?

What is lettuce water?

Lettuce water is the liquid that remains after steeping lettuce leaves in hot water. It’s essentially the same thing as making tea. As you might be able to imagine, the taste isn’t so great. To help, some people have chosen to add sleep-promoting teas, peppermint, and other things to enhance its flavor and make it a bit more interesting. People have claimed that they can “barely keep their eyes open” after drinking lettuce water.

Does it really promote sleep?

Interestingly enough, there is some basis in reality on this one. Lettuce contains a chemical called lactucarium.

Lactucarium can act as a diuretic, laxative, and yes, a sedative. Some refer to it as “lettuce opium” because of the properties it has. Here’s the thing: you’d have to consume a lot to get any significant benefit from it. The amount you’re getting from a few leaves of lettuce is likely quite small.

Additionally, there’s very little research that has been done to examine the link between lettuce and sleep in humans. However, there has been some research done using mice. Some studies have shown that lettuce positively impacts sleep quality and duration. However, there aren’t that many out there in general and rats aren’t humans. The placebo effect is real. Those boasting how much better their sleep is might very well just be experiencing that.

Woman tired, yawning in bed setting clock
(© Syda Productions – stock.adobe.com)

Is it safe to drink?

As a dietitian, telling you to consume less lettuce isn’t my game. Including lettuce water in your diet is probably not going to harm you and is likely very safe. If you want to try it, there isn’t much stopping you. Of note, however, lettuce is a high-risk food that is a very common culprit for food poisoning outbreaks and recalls. This is because during farming and processing, there are lots of opportunities for contamination, in the soil, water, and while harvesting.

Most commonly, E. coli, norovirus, Salmonella, Listeria, and Cyclospora germs are found in lettuce. There is a risk present whether you drink lettuce water or just eat salads, but either way, it’s important to be aware of it.

More reliable ways to improve sleep

Evidence-based ways to enhance sleep quality include:

The Dietitian’s Take

Keep the lettuce in your salad bowl. For most people, drinking lettuce water is likely safe, although there are more practical and evidence-based ways to improve sleep. Sure, lettuce contains lactucarium, which has been shown to have sedative effects. However, it remains unlikely that a few steeped leaves are generating that effect. There’s hardly any research in humans to support the idea that drinking lettuce water really works. For those who swear by it, it might just be all in their head — and not their head of lettuce.

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