Life

Does Drinking Lettuce Water Really Help You Sleep? I Put It to the Test.

TikTokers swear by lettuce water, a bizarre hack that’s supposed to help you fall asleep.
I tried the TikTok trend of drinking lettuce water or lettuce to fall asleep.
I drank lettuce water every day for a week to see if it will really help me sleep. Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

But Y Tho explores a plethora of funny, strange, and peculiar trends to provide long sought-after answers to questions that have been swimming in all our heads.


In a TikTok video, Elliott Norris is seen stuffing pieces of lettuce leaves into a mason jar before filling it with hot water. After letting them steep for about 15 minutes, he picked out the leaves and drank the tinted liquid.

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“It’s been 20 minutes, my eyes feel so heavy,” the 26-year-old content creator said in his TikTok video while lying in bed, eyelids seemingly drooping. It worked, he claimed—the lettuce water made him sleepy. 

Norris told VICE that he is always on the lookout for food-related trends to try. Naturally, when he came across a peculiar sleep hack on TikTok in June, he was eager to give it a go.

“I’m always up super, super late… So I was like, ‘Oh, let me try this out,’” he said. 

As a night owl, Norris usually sleeps at around 4 a.m., but he claimed that drinking the lettuce water at 1:30 a.m. one night had him feeling sleepy within about 15 minutes. 

Anecdotes on TikTok have people believing that lettuce water (usually made with romaine lettuce), which some also call lettuce tea, is strong enough to knock out even the most serious insomniacs.

“Your sis is gone,” one sleepy TikToker concluded in a viral video that has garnered 1.4 million likes. Another claimed that drinking lettuce water caused them to sleep for 12 hours straight.

As of writing, TikTok videos with the hashtag #lettucewater have totaled over 33 million views while those tagged with #lettucetea have over 10 million views.

But does lettuce water really help you sleep better? Like many of the hacks on TikTok, it seemed too good to be true. So, of course, I had to look into it. 

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As random as this hack sounds, it’s not entirely without basis, though this comes with major caveats.

Lactucarium, a milky fluid found in some species of lettuce (especially wild lettuce) is known in folk medicine for its sedative effects. Wild lettuce is different from the supermarket varieties and can pose serious dangers when eaten.

Studies done on mice have shown that lettuce can have potentiating effects on inducing and prolonging sleep. But in these studies, the mice were administered with pentobarbital, a sedative drug. The lettuce only enhanced the effects of the sedative. 

Lettuce seed oil has been shown to improve sleep in humans when consumed in capsules, but the purported active ingredients in the oil would not be present in lettuce water, said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, an associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University.

While there doesn’t seem to be any health risks to drinking lettuce water, St-Onge said she would much rather see people actually eating lettuce instead of tossing them out to drink lettuce water.

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“I have not come across any research to suggest that water from which lettuce was boiled could help one fall asleep. It could be a placebo effect,” St-Onge told VICE. “People in those videos expect lettuce water to help them sleep and this, in and of itself, could be sufficient to give them the perception that they are more sleepy.”

There appears to be no scientific evidence that drinking lettuce water really helps in falling asleep faster and better, but this isn’t stopping people from going out like a light after drinking homemade lettuce water.

Irdeena Syahira Binti Ilham, a 22-year-old student in Malaysia, said she started feeling drowsy about 40 minutes after drinking lettuce water and slept for 10 hours straight—a personal feat considering she tends to wake up in the middle of the night.

“But there’s a possibility of it being a placebo effect,” she admitted. “I’m not entirely sure.” 

As someone who doesn’t have much trouble sleeping at regular times, I’m fortunately spared from the dire need of a sleep solution. But if lettuce water was going to help me sleep on command, it was enough to warrant a try.

I drank the veggie concoction for six days straight, switching up my drinking times, water temperature, and exercise intensity. I also tracked my sleep using a smartwatch to find out if the weird TikTok hack holds up to its claims.

Day 1: Hot lettuce water at 11 p.m.

Thus began my first day of the lettuce water experiment. I had no idea what to expect but like many TikTokers, I was low-key hopeful that the drink would make me somewhat sleepy. 

I tore up some romaine lettuce leaves, steeped them in hot water, and took my first cautious sip of the purportedly magical drink. Surprisingly, the lettuce water didn’t taste bad—based on TikTok reviews I thought it would be absolutely revolting—though I wouldn’t call it delicious either. 

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As I struggled to slurp to the bottom of the cup, I felt like I was going to throw up. Turns out, the taste of lettuce can get a bit too much to bear. 

One week of drinking lettuce water or lettuce tea, a TikTok trend that is supposed to make you fall asleep.

First day of drinking lettuce water because of a TikTok trend. Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

Strangely enough, I did feel a little sleepy shortly after. Could the lettuce water actually be working? I thought it might be, but couldn’t be entirely sure yet. While I was cautiously hopeful that the lettuce water was working its magic, I considered that my exhaustion could also be the result of my trip to the gym earlier that day.

In any case, I was satisfied after a night of solid sleep.

One week of drinking lettuce water or lettuce tea, a TikTok trend that is supposed to make you fall asleep.

Estimated sleep duration: 11:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. (8.5 hours). Image: Koh Ewe

Day 2: Hot lettuce water at 10 p.m.

This time, I managed to down the whole cup without getting sick. The trick, I realized, is to not chug it all at once. Like most things in life, it’s important to pace yourself—even when you’re drinking a veggie cocktail in the hopes that it will knock you out.

But it didn’t, and when I hit the sack as bedtime rolled around it felt just like a regular night’s sleep.

One week of drinking lettuce water or lettuce tea, a TikTok trend that is supposed to make you fall asleep.

Estimated sleep duration: 12 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. (8.5 hours). Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

Rebecca Robbins, a sleep scientist at Brigham & Women's Hospital, told VICE that she isn’t aware of any high-quality studies suggesting that lettuce has sedative effects on humans. However, she said that the supposed sleep-inducing ability of lettuce water may simply come from the comfort of a warm drink before bed.

“We know that a warm cup of tea can have soothing effects... It is possible that drinking the warm cup of liquid is sufficient to elicit a soothing response,” said Robbins.

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Day 3: Hot lettuce water at 7:30 p.m.

To avoid having any possible lettuce-induced sleepiness coincide with my routine sleep schedule, I tried drinking lettuce water way before my usual bedtime. I downed a cup of lettuce water right after dinner, which actually made for an oddly satisfying post-meal beverage.

Unfortunately, the drink seemed to have no effect on me. I went to bed at around midnight as usual.

One week of drinking lettuce water or lettuce tea, a TikTok trend that is supposed to make you fall asleep.

Estimated sleep duration: 12 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. (7.5 hours). Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

Day 4: Hot lettuce water at 12:30 a.m.

That weekend, I did a staycation with my friend. I wasn’t going to let the change in environment get in the way of my serious sleep experiment, so I packed my lettuce leaves in a plastic bag and brought them along. I brewed my lettuce tea using the hotel kettle and drank it before bed.

One week of drinking lettuce water or lettuce tea, a TikTok trend that is supposed to make you fall asleep.

Brewing lettuce tea in my hotel room. Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

Lettuce water didn’t manage to knock me out when I needed it the most. I tossed and turned throughout the night in the unfamiliar bed and room, the result of chronic back pain and being a light sleeper. Naturally, I woke up groggy and grumpy.

One week of drinking lettuce water or lettuce tea, a TikTok trend that is supposed to make you fall asleep.

Estimated sleep duration: 1:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. (6 hours). Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

Day 5: Cold lettuce water at 9:30 p.m.

Norris, the TikToker, said that drinking the lettuce water cold still worked its sedative magic for him. He now makes lettuce water in big batches and saves them in the refrigerator to drink over several days.

I was curious if the drink temperature made a difference, so I added ice cubes to chill my lettuce water.

One week of drinking lettuce water or lettuce tea, a TikTok trend that is supposed to make you fall asleep.

Estimated sleep duration: 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. (9 hours). Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

While my lettuce water experiment was ongoing, I also spoke to Austin Ng, a TikToker who shares a similar sleep habit as mine—he doesn’t have trouble sleeping and usually goes to bed at midnight.

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But that one time he drank lettuce water at around 9:30 p.m., he said he was knocked out by 10:45 p.m.

“I was very sleepy. Definitely very drowsy, did not expect that,” he said of his lettuce water trial documented on TikTok. “I was like, ‘OK, that's kind of like medicine.’”

I couldn’t say the same for my experience with lettuce water. Hot or cold, I just wasn’t feeling its purported sleep-inducing effects.

Ng said that he hasn’t tried lettuce water after that first time, since he isn’t that big of a lettuce fan. “I thought it kind of tastes like oolong tea,” he added.

Day 6: Hot lettuce water at 10 p.m.

This time, I drank it right after an evening session at the gym. Again, it didn’t do much for me, which was a little surprising considering I was expecting to feel tired after working out. When the clock struck midnight I was still wide awake.

One week of drinking lettuce water or lettuce tea, a TikTok trend that is supposed to make you fall asleep.

Estimated sleep duration: 12:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. (8 hours). Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

Day 7: Hot lettuce water at 10 p.m.

At this point, I’ve pretty much lost all hope in lettuce water. But I wanted to give it one last shot, just to be sure. 

I polished off my final cup of lettuce water with a little disappointment that it didn’t work, but also a whole lot of relief that I no longer have to taste this lettuce-laden liquid.

One week of drinking lettuce water or lettuce tea, a TikTok trend that is supposed to make you fall asleep.

Estimated sleep duration: 12:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. (8 hours). Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

Then, I did start to feel sleepy around 11:30 p.m., slightly before my bedtime and more than an hour after drinking the lettuce water. But what I learned from the past week is that my drowsiness was probably brought on by something other than the drink, be it an intense workout, post-work lethargy, or food coma from a hearty meal. I didn’t feel any improvement in the quality of my sleep either.

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Has TikTok been fooling me? Is this one big placebo effect? Or was I the only one shut out from getting a lettuce style shut-eye?

Shelen Wong, a 22-year-old Malaysian TikToker who also tested out the hack, laid my FOMO to rest.

“It's a waste of time,” she said of lettuce water that also failed to make her sleepy. 

Wong added that it might have been a placebo effect—people might be more suggestible and consequently sleepier because they want so badly for the simple sleep hack to work. They may also be exaggerating their effects for entertainment and viral attention.

For some TikTokers, though, the effectiveness of the sleep hack may not be all that important—the wacky experiment itself is the point. Norris, who dove headfirst into the trend without much research, said the uncertainty is part of the adventure.

“Trends on the internet are very fun. There’s so many of them and they’re fun to be a part of,” he said. “You don't want to really look up to see, ‘Oh, is this real or not?’ It’s like, ‘OK, let’s try it. And let’s make a good video out of it,’ you know?”

The first couple of days, I really hoped that it would work—how awesome would it be if everyone’s sleep woes could be solved by soggy lettuce? But I found out that as far as foolproof knockout hacks go, lettuce water ain’t it. 

For a more scientific solution, Robbins, the sleep scientist, recommends limiting caffeine consumption later in the day, exercising, unplugging from electronics, and practicing a soothing activity like meditation before bedtime. 

As for me, I might just stick to counting sheep.

Follow Koh Ewe on Instagram.