If you’re looking for a quick, easy, and affordable way to fall asleep, chances are you’ve come across the lettuce-water trend on TikTok. Videos tagged with #LettuceWater have amassed over 43 million views.
User @shapla_11 (Shapla Hoque) is one of the many people who’ve posted a video on the sleep hack. “I was having trouble sleeping for a week and Googled ‘home sleep remedies’ and found out lettuce has some properties that help with sleep,” she tells POPSUGAR. The website didn’t say to make it into a tea, but since she doesn’t like raw lettuce, Hoque says she boiled it with some water to make “lettuce tea.” After sipping a Superman-mug-full, “within 30 minutes, I was super drowsy and tired,” she says. At the end of the video, clearly looking tired, Hoque says, “Your sis is gone.”
The caption on the video says, “if you can’t sleep, try this” . . . but does it really work? POPSUGAR asked sleep specialist Michael Breus, PhD, to weigh in on whether lettuce water actually helps with sleep, and if it’s safe to consume.
How Do You Make Lettuce Water?
In most of the TikTok videos tagged with #LettuceWater, the creators take a huge handful (or sometimes an entire head) of iceberg, Romaine, or another type of lettuce, steep the leaves in hot water for several minutes (up to 15), remove the lettuce, and then drink the warm veggie broth. Some users have added peppermint tea to the leaves to help with the flavor.
Does Drinking Lettuce Water Really Help With Sleep?
Unfortunately, there’s no conclusive evidence proving that drinking hot lettuce water will help with sleep, Dr. Breus says. In general, we have limited research on the topic: there’s one 2017 study that looked at the potential of lettuce leaves and lettuce seed extracts to induce longer durations of sleep in mice, and it found that may help. A 2018 study in humans looked at the effect of lettuce seed extract on pregnancy-related insomnia and found that it did indeed decrease insomnia and “could be recommended as a safe natural remedy for treatment of pregnancy-related insomnia.” And most recently, a 2023 study on a type of Korean lettuce called Heukharang found that Heukharang lettuce leaf extract showed sleep benefits in mice. While there’s potential that lettuce may help with sleep, we just don’t have the scientific studies in humans yet to back it up.
Wild lettuce was once used in folk medicine as a sedative during the 19th century, specifically a dried milky substance secreted called lactucarium. But Michelle Drerup, PsyD, says in a New York Times article, “boiling a few leaves would not release enough extract to have an effect on you.”
So if the science isn’t there, why are so many lettuce-water drinkers falling asleep? According to Dr. Breus, “People are desperate [for sleep] and following a trend.” He thinks it’s a placebo effect. If you drink something you think (and hope) will make you sleepy, you’re more likely to feel the dozing effects. It could also be the act of sipping on a warm beverage at night that helps people fall asleep.
Either way, drinking lettuce water isn’t harmful, so feel free to give it a try — just please, wash the lettuce well first (the TikToks of people drinking buggy lettuce water are just too hard to stomach). And if you do you start feeling sleepy, keep in mind it may be your mind playing tricks on you rather than the lettuce doing its job.
Other Tips For Better Sleep
While sleep hacks are great if they work, Dr. Breus believes in making sure to establish good sleep hygiene. He suggests adding these five simple habits to your daily routine to help you get better quality sleep:
- Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including weekends.
- Eliminate caffeine starting at 2 p.m. as research shows this stimulant can reduce total sleep time by up to 41 minutes when consumed within six hours of bedtime.
- Eliminate alcohol at least three hours before bedtime to help your body get enough REM sleep, which is vitally important for getting deep, restorative sleep.
- Get plenty of physical activity for better sleep and better overall health. Data suggests that exercising during the day helps you fall asleep more quickly and plunges you into longer, deeper sleep.
- Get 15 minutes of sunlight every morning to help keep your circadian rhythm functioning at its best.
Image Source: Getty / Oksana Nazarchuk M