As someone who spends all day staring at screens for work and all night scrolling through social media before hitting the hay, I'm not exactly setting myself up to have the best sleep ever. Sure, I can doze off pretty easily once I put my phone down and commit to shutting my eyes, but I never have that sleepy, drowsy feeling wash over me before I crawl into bed, and it's kind of disappointing. But during one of my late night TikTok scrolls, I came across an easy-to-follow hack that promised to help make my sleepy dreams come true: lettuce water.
Basically, the idea is to let some lettuce steep in boiling hot water, as if it were tea leaves; after a few minutes, remove the greens, drink the leftover liquid, and then, voilà, you're sleepy and ready to get some restorative rest — allegedly. Or maybe definitely? After trying out the trend, TikTok user Shapla Hoque says that she at first felt a little drowsy, but not "hella sleepy." But, in the next clip though, she says, "Okay, another update. Lettuce has crack because your sis is gone."
It's safe to say I was intrigued, and the trend seemed to be backed by at least one doctor. Brian Boxer Wachler, MD, stitched the original TikTok video saying that while this hasn't been studied in humans, it has been studied on mice. "Last night I tried myself and it worked," he wrote in his response. The study he mentioned was published in 2017 and found that romaine lettuce in particular has a higher lactucin content — a compound that is part of the larger compound lactucarium, which has sedative properties — compared to other lettuce varieties, which allowed it to induce an increase the sleep duration of the mice studied. The study's abstract also notes that "romaine lettuce is an interesting and valuable source of sleep potentiating material." But still — what's true in mice may not necessarily be true in humans.
So, without much to lose, I decided to take the romaine lettuce tea for a spin. In the original TikTok, Hoque added a peppermint tea bag to her mug of wet lettuce to dispel the taste — but, being adventurous, I decided to raw-dog the concoction instead of adding in any flavor. I boiled my water, let the lettuce steep for around 15 minutes, then removed the leafy greens from the mug. I quickly guzzled the entire serving, just wanting to get it over with — though, to be honest, it wasn't as repulsive as I thought it would be. It tastes exactly like you'd think — wilted lettuce, but liquid.
I'll admit, after drinking this, I was feeling a bit sleepier than usual, although I'm not sure if it was from the lettuce, the warm water, or because I was trying to stay entertained while watching the new season of The Bachelorette. I ended up falling asleep around 11 p.m., which is much, much earlier than my usual 1-2 a.m. bedtime. I also woke up feeling pretty refreshed.
Although this method hasn't exactly been proven by science, it's not something that you should be too worried about testing out for yourself. "I’m guessing it’s the placebo effect but, hey, if it makes someone have some herbal tea and relax before bed, it seems harmless," Seema Khosla, MD, the medical director of the North Dakota Center for Sleep tells Refinery29 via email. "Anything that makes people more aware of their sleep and that creates a wind-down routine is great, in my opinion."
If you're having trouble sleeping, you can stick to the tried-and-true insomnia remedies — exercising regularly, implementing a chill wind-down routine, avoiding screens, caffeine, and alcohol before bed, and if all else fails, seek help from a professional. And if you can stomach the weird, grassy taste of lettuce water, then more power to you. Cheers!