Another day, another TikTok trend. While these typically remind me to take my Metamucil and check my retirement investments (because I’m a #eldermillennial and can’t keep up with the kids these days), one video actually resonated. Enter the “sleepy girl mocktail,” a seemingly simple blend of tart cherry juice, magnesium powder, and prebiotic soda that social media claims will help vanquish sleep woes, one sip at a time.
I am no stranger to the promises of tart cherry juice. In fact, I conducted a week-long experiment for Sleep.com where I chugged a glass of tart cherry juice every night before bed. Though it wasn’t my favorite nighttime ritual, I somewhat enjoyed it at the time. And the surprising result was a slight improvement in falling asleep (though my experiment would never meet Bill Nye the Science Guy’s standards).
But what separates the sleepy girl mocktail from straight-up tart cherry juice is the addition of the aforementioned magnesium powder and prebiotic soda. While magnesium has proven to have sleep-supporting benefits, prebiotic soda is a new one. Together, could this drink have been the missing link between my slightly improved sleep and a night of power-REM?
I reached out to Sarah Alsing, a registered dietitian and owner of Delightfully Fueled, to get her expert opinion on the bedtime sipper that has taken social media by storm.
“The sleepy girl mocktail has potential to improve sleep, as research has found benefits in using the ingredients for sleep,” she says. “But it isn’t guaranteed to work for everyone.”
Keeping this in mind, I asked her to break down the ingredients and the impact they may have on successfully catching Zzz’s.
The effects of tart cherry juice on sleep
“Tart cherry juice may improve sleep for some people and not for others,” reveals Alsing, citing various studies that showed promising results but for very specific types of people. For example, one study looked at giving one cup of tart cherry juice to eight elderly subjects and found that it increased their sleep time by 84 minutes. Another study included 19 female field hockey players and found that it improved their sleep quality but not their total time asleep.
On the flip side, another study gave 44 participants one cup of tart cherry juice twice a day, with zero improvement in sleep time or quality.
Don’t rush to rule it out, though. Tart cherry juice contains two key components for sleep: melatonin and tryptophan, a sleep-enhancing duo when consumed in tandem, as tryptophan is an amino acid that helps make not only more melatonin but also serotonin. “The body will use tryptophan to make melatonin and serotonin. Serotonin helps improve mood, which can help you sleep,” says Alsing.
The effects of magnesium powder on sleep
The one “sleepy girl mocktail” ingredient that shows the most promise is magnesium powder.
“Magnesium is thought to improve sleep because it promotes melatonin and decreases cortisol,” explains Alsing. “Cortisol is your stress hormone and the fight-or-flight response. Decreasing cortisol can help you feel calm and relaxed.”
There are also two major studies that support this claim.
“Three clinical trials found that magnesium supplements improved the time it takes to fall asleep by about 17 minutes and increased total sleep time by about 16 minutes in older adults with insomnia,” shares Alsing. “The doses given were about one gram per day and in the form of magnesium oxide or magnesium citrate.”
“Another large study that included almost 4,000 people looked at dietary intake of magnesium and sleep. The more magnesium people ate in their diet, the better their sleep quality and the more likely they slept at least seven hours a night,” she adds.
That said, Alsing always encourages her clients to receive magnesium from natural food sources, such as almonds, pumpkin seeds, and peanut butter. Not only are these typically easier to absorb, but they’re also less mysterious than supplements.
“Supplements do not always contain the exact amounts of ingredients stated,” warns Alsing. “Medications are tested to check the amount of the active ingredient, but supplements are not required to be tested.”
The effects of prebiotic soda on sleep
While prebiotics can be a wonderful addition for those who suffer from digestive issues (they act as food for gut-healthy probiotics), there is no concrete evidence to suggest that they will help you fall and stay asleep. In fact, they may have the opposite effect.
“Prebiotics can be taken before bed, but they can cause discomfort for some and lead to going to the bathroom during the night, which wouldn’t help sleep,” says Alsing.
The prebiotic soda is likely just a fancy addition with whatever bubbles the TikToker had on hand, but if you’re hoping to dilute the super-sweet tart cherry juice and/or crave a bit of carbonation, swap the prebiotic soda for an unsweetened sparkling water. And be sure to eat prebiotic-heavy foods like asparagus, bananas, oats, and apples throughout the day so that they’re not consumed right before bedtime.
Should you try the sleepy girl mocktail?
Is the “sleepy girl mocktail” worth trying? Sure, as long as you don’t have preexisting conditions or feel like it may interfere with prescription pills.
“You should be wary of any TikTok trend that involves a supplement, especially if you take medications,” advises Alsing. “Supplements can have harmful interactions, so you should always discuss with your doctor and do your own research as well.”
Instead, Alsing recommends experimenting with a tried-and-true chamomile tea, which contains an antioxidant called apigenin that acts on receptors in the brain that may induce sleepiness and decrease anxiety.
But as far as I’m concerned, I’m still on the hunt for a comatose cocktail — something that will, without fail, render me unconscious for eight solid hours. And until that concoction arrives, doctor-approved, I’ll only use TikTok to mindlessly scroll through videos of puppies and Ryan Reynolds.