Does Lettuce Water Make You Sleepy?

This could be the natural remedy we're desperate for.

Struggling with insomnia can leave you desperately Googling sleep tips late at night. When you do, you might come across a trick you've never heard of before: drinking lettuce water.

In 2021, drinking lettuce water to combat not being able to sleep was made popular by Shapla Hoque on TikTok. "If you can't sleep, try this," Hoque wrote in the caption before claiming drinking lettuce water could help you feel tired.

Given that this is TikTok advice, it's understandable to look at the idea of drinking lettuce water with a healthy level of suspicion. So…is this legit?

Yes and no, Christopher Winter, MD, of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and author of the book, The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It, told Health. Here's the deal.


Lettuce and Sleep

A 2014 review article in Current Signal Transduction Therapy explained that lettuce may have hypnotic sleep-inducing effects.

Lettuce contains something called lactucarium, which can make you feel sleepy. "It has a similar structure to opium and has some sedative properties," Dr. Winter said.

You can actually see lactucarium if you look at the base of certain lettuces. "It's a milky substance," Dr. Winter explained. "If you get a whole bunch of lettuce and boil it down, you can make this chemical."

A research article published in Food Science and Biotechnology in 2017 explained that lactucin, a major active compound in lactucarium, is found in higher concentrations in green romaine lettuce than in green and red lettuce varieties.

And a 2022 review published in Rev Bras Ginecol Obstet found that lettuce seed may help improve sleep quality during pregnancy.

Lettuce Water and Sleep

Lettuce water doesn't always follow a consistent recipe, but the overall idea is to make a liquid with a base ingredient of lettuce. A research study published in 2021 in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine found that lettuce seed syrup improved sleep quality in participants who had breast cancer.

While lettuce contains lactucarium and that can make you sleepy, Dr. Winter said that you'd need to steep a "tremendous" amount of lettuce to really get the benefits. "The amount of lactucarium you're getting from four to five lettuce leaves is unlikely to do much," Dr. Winter said. But the warmth from the water itself could help make you sleepy, along with a healthy placebo effect, Dr. Winter added.

If you like the idea of trying out some kind of warm liquid for insomnia, Dr. Winter suggested using tea that contains chamomile and/or valerian. "Having a cup of tea every night about an hour before bed signals to your body that it's time to get ready for sleep," Dr. Winter explained and added. "Cues can help."

Still, if you want to give lettuce water a go, Dr. Winter said that's just fine. "There's nothing harmful about putting lettuce in your tea," Dr. Winter pointed out.

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