Does Drinking Lettuce Water Help You Sleep?

The trendy beverage brews lettuce leaves in hot water just like tea.

Getting a good night's sleep is imperative to our everyday health. Sleep makes up a third of every person's life but I—along with the 50 to 70 million others in the country—struggle with easily falling asleep. So when I saw the latest trendy video of someone drinking lettuce water to supposedly help induce sleep making its way around social media, I was intrigued, but skeptical. I've tried essential oils, changed my apartment's temperature, and sipped chamomile tea to help me sleep better, so why hadn't I heard of lettuce water?

Using herbal teas as a sleep aid has been around for centuries. "Steeping wild grasses and leaves have been part of that nighttime tradition and using Lactuca sativa [lettuce], technically an herb, is a newer twist on that process," says Christina Meyer-Jax, RDN and health advisor for Lifesum and Gympass. In the #lettucewater videos (with 30+ million views and counting) all you have to do is grab some romaine lettuce leaves (more on the type of lettuce later) and cover it with boiling water. Let it wilt for a few minutes, drink up, and (apparently) you should be getting drowsy enough to fall asleep. Before I drowned my precious salad greens in water, I sought advice from experts to determine whether the hack actually has merit.

romaine lettuce
Adobe Stock/Julija

How Can Lettuce Help You Sleep?

"Lettuce has a compound in it called lactucin, which has several potential health benefits," says Stephanie Nelson, RD and nutrition expert at MyFitnessPal. "One study looked at lactucin's properties as a potential sedative in rats, leading to the belief that lactucin can help aid sleep." Nelson points out this has not been widely tested enough to definitely say that lettuce tea would help people sleep. Basically, the potential is there, but we don't have enough research to know for sure that it works. Many times, foods that have a theoretical effect don't have a real-life effect that holds up in the scientific method. We still don't really know how much lactucin you can steep from lettuce or what the optimal dose of lactucin is to get the results you want.

Can I Use Any Lettuce?

Romaine lettuce is highest in lactucin, according to the study mentioned earlier. So if lactucin really helps you sleep, then romaine lettuce would be the best choice. "More research needs to be conducted on other forms of leafy greens such as spinach and arugula which have different plant properties," Meyer-Jax says.

What it Boils Down To

So should you start adding lettuce water to your nightly routine? That depends. "Lettuce tea certainly isn't harmful, so you can safely try it and see if it works for you," Nelson says. If the thought of drinking hot lettuce tea doesn't entice you, give decaf tea or plain old hot water a try. "Both in research and anecdotal evidence hot water is reported to aid in digestion, detoxification, improve relaxation and stress, and relieve congestion," Meyer-Jax says. "Having hot water or non-caffeinated tea can also provide a grounding and calming nighttime routine that triggers the senses that it's time for bed. Being properly hydrated is key to quality sleep."

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