Dr Michael Mosley on the importance of routine for sleep
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Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Doctor Deborah Lee cleared up the facts. “There are no studies on the effects of lettuce on sleep in humans.” There are, however, animal studies on lactucin, which is found in lettuce. Lactucin gives lettuce a somewhat bitter taste, and it’s a type of “sesquiterpene lactone”. “These are compounds found in plants known to have calming properties,” explained Doctor Lee.
“They are potent antioxidants and have been shown to possess strong anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-tumorigenic effects.”
Dr Lee referenced a 1992 study on mice that showed the lettuce Lactuca virosa had “sedating” properties.
Another research study – conducted in a laboratory in 2017 – examined the effects of mice given an oral dose of Romaine lettuce extract.
“They were tested using the phenobarbital sleep test – a specific lab test used to measure sleep latency (time it takes to get off to sleep) and sleep duration (time spent asleep),” Dr Lee elaborated.
“The results showed that sleep latency was reduced, and sleep duration was increased after treatment with the lettuce extract.”
The authors then concluded that the high antioxidant content of lettuce extract may have positive effects to aid sleep.
Yet, Dr Lee cautions that “before you take the results of this study at face value, stop and think”.
Firstly, “mice are not humans”, and secondly, “the lettuce extract was not prepared by boiling the lettuce in water”.
Dr Lee highlighted that boiling plant material reduces its vitamin and mineral content by as much as 90 percent.
Thus, Dr Lee doubts that drinking lettuce water before bedtime, which is steeped like tea in the viral TikTok video, will not help you fall asleep more easily.
However, another expert, Dr Giuseppe Aragona has advice on the sleeping tricks that do work.
“Drinking so much liquid before bed can actually promote disrupted sleep,” Dr Aragona cautioned.
“You may find that you have to make a trip to the bathroom once or twice in the night.
“There are other, more effective natural options to help you sleep rather than drinking lettuce water.”
Dr Aragona stated: “Natural alternatives which are proven to be beneficial for sleep are lavender, magnesium, melatonin, Valerian root, glycine and chamomile.”
The Sleep Foundation concurred that lavender is one of the “best scents for sleep”.
“The smell of lavender has calming effects on heart rate and blood pressure as well as mood,” the Sleep Foundation noted.
As for magnesium, it has the “potential to help you sleep better”, yet scientists do not fully understand why this is.
What’s clear, however, is that a lack of magnesium negatively affects a person’s sleep.
In addition to sleep aids, creating the ideal bedroom environment conducive to sleep involves a darkened, cool, and quiet bedroom.
Dr Deborah Lee is from Dr Fox Pharmacy – a fully regulated UK online doctor and pharmacy service managed by NHS GPs.
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