TikTokers are pouring boiling water onto shredded lettuce, claiming the tea helps them sleep. While there’s no harm in the practice, experts say a better way to get to sleep at night is to put down the phone and create a bedtime routine free of screens and other distractions.
Video after video has users tearing up a litany of lettuce — from romaine to iceberg to various wild varieties — and pouring hot water over it before letting it steep anywhere between three to twenty minutes. Users then strain out the soggy leaves and drink the greenish water with varying results. On the platform, the hashtag #lettucetea currently has 13.3 million views.
Melanie Steele, a Registered Dietician in British Columbia and founder of Vancity Nutrition, says she’s not aware of any vitamin or other component in lettuce that can help you get to sleep at night.
“If you’re talking about going to the store and cutting some romaine lettuce and making some tea, there’s no evidence that [helps you sleep],” says Steele.
The practice also doesn’t make much sense, since if there was some sort of component in the lettuce that makes people drowsy, we would feel some effects whenever we have a salad — which isn’t the case.
“It’s just a plant; it’s primarily starches. It’s going to have some carotenoids, which are derivatives of vitamin A,” says Scott Harding, an Assistant Professor in Nutritional Biochemistry at Memorial University. “…[But] there’s a lot of people compare it to like CBD and melatonin. There’s nothing like that in lettuce.”
Are there any foods or teas that can help us sleep?
Studies conducted throughout the past decade on different teas and foods to help us sleep have shown some results, but nothing that is a fail-safe method to get those precious Z’s.
“The only tea that I’m aware of that can help is chamomile tea. It’s calming…but [it’s] not super strong,” says Steele. “There are a few studies on tart cherry juice, because it is high in melatonin…one study back in 2012 that showed an increased time in bed and their total sleep time.”
Another study also correlated eating kiwi fruit before bed with falling asleep more easily, but Steele stresses that these were all smaller studies, so your mileage my vary.
Melatonin, one of the more common supplements used by those who want to sleep on demand, is a hormone naturally made by our bodies. When it gets dark out, the pineal gland in the brain starts to pump out melatonin, which influences the body to transition from wakefulness to sleeping.
While melatonin is a favourite for shift workers and world travellers, there is still debate as to whether taking melatonin as a supplement helps us sleep quicker. Many of the studies done on the subject are inconclusive. Those suffering from insomnia also have mixed results with using the supplement as it doesn’t actually help us stay in a state of sleep.
Harding explains that a lot of vitamins and hormones marketed by the supplement industry are connected to actual metabolic pathways, but simply increasing one component of these very complex reactions in the body doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll increase its effects.
“People come up with ideas in the supplement industry all the time based on real metabolic pathways. They’ll like say…this vitamin links into this…but when you have them, you just use them normally. If you have more, you just pee them out.”
No substitute for good sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene is a term coined in the 1970’s and refers to the routine and bedroom environment we set up for ourselves to promote falling and staying asleep. While some teas or foods may help us sleep, few things outside of a prescribed sleeping medication can overcome poor habits.
“If you have poor sleep hygiene, having a tea is not really going to help. I would say it’s like a supplemental practice,” says Steele.
Science-backed tactics to getting a good night’s sleep include getting some exercise during the day, giving yourself a break from screens and other devices that emit blue light before bed, not bringing electronics to bed with you and going to bed at a similar time each night. When you’re in bed, the bedroom should be dark, a cooler temperature and quiet. Some might have success with a white noise machine, which can block out sudden sounds that will jostle us out of a deep sleep.
The Sleep Foundation also recommends starting a bedtime routine — like putting electronics away, putting on your PJs and journaling about your day — to help unwind and signal to your mind that it’s time to go to sleep. If lettuce tea has made it into your bedtime routine, or prompts you to start one, there shouldn’t be much harm in drinking it. (So long as you don’t drink so much you have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.)
“If you’re going to steep some lettuce and drink a beverage that doesn’t have any sugar in it or anything like that, well, that’s actually healthy,” says Harding. “If you’re not going to have a sugary or fattening beverage, that’s great.”
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