Does lettuce help you sleep?

A patient the other day told me that lettuce could help you sleep. I had never heard this notion, and I must confess I was a bit sceptical. The idea of a salad or a lettuce sandwich at bedtime wasn’t that appealing either!

Sleep seems to be becoming a new obsession of the worried well these days: now that they all have been made to feel guilty about not taking 10,000 steps each day, the powers that be have also decreed that if you don’t get 7 hours sleep you are a bad person.

It seems that lettuce contains a substance that has a mild sedative effect and helps promote sleep. The Romans thought that lettuce was soporific in humans, identifying a milky substance called lactucarium or ‘lettuce opium’ that had sedative effects. During the early stages of the Roman empire lettuce was eaten at the end of a meal to calm diners and help them sleep.

My extensive research on the subject doesn’t fill me with confidence that major nocturnal lettuce consumption will make me sleep like a baby. So it’s back to counting sheep…


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