Going home for the holidays is always fun, but it never fails to leave me sleep-deprived. Since my parents are basically empty nesters and I now need room for myself and a golden retriever, I ended up sleeping in a total of four different beds and three different houses between all the visits. While it was amazing seeing everyone (and who doesn’t love a grown-up sleepover at Grandma's?), by the time New Year’s rolled around, my sleep schedule was totally destroyed.
I kept finding myself tossing and turning, or, honestly, just thinking about a million things rather than snoozing. I’d assumed that being back in my own bed would fix everything, but lo and behold, it was just as hard to get a good night’s sleep as it had been during my weeks of holiday couch surfing. Searching online kept bringing me to a number of pretty sketchy solutions, mostly over-the-counter sleeping pills that felt like a great way to develop a substance dependence. And of course, there’s always melatonin, but as someone who struggles with nightmares, melatonin’s effect of intensifying your dreams feels like a bad move. Finally, in some late-night scrolling (which, yes, was totally part of the problem), social media influencers descended from heaven with a potential solution: the #sleepygirlmocktail.
The Sleepytime Spritz
Let me start by saying I am so here for any kind of mocktail. After doing dry January last year (and dry Lent), I’ve ended up doing a lot more sober weeks (and, more importantly, weekends), and I’ve fallen in love with how much better I feel the next morning. I also just love a good mocktail because, while I still love going to the bar with friends, you can only drink so many tap waters and Diet Cokes before feeling a little left out of the fun. So a mocktail that helps you sleep? Sounds like a party to me.
The sleep mocktail was popularized last year by wellness creator Gracie Norton, who developed it to deal with sleep issues she had as a result of PCOS. "I have been making mocktails for a few years due to the effects alcohol had on my hormones and have always loved winding down with a beverage before bed," Norton told Good Morning America, “Seeing people recreate my recipes and incorporate my wellness practices has brought so much joy into my life.” Since then, her recipe and related adaptations have gone totally viral, with over 4 million views of the #sleepygirlmocktail tag on TikTok.
The Sleepy Girl Mocktail is full of ingredients that, I’ll be honest, I’ve never really heard of. The crucial ones are tart cherry juice, which typically comes in concentrate form, and magnesium powder, which is, well, in powder form. Then, most people tend to use either probiotic soda or just sparkling water for a little pizazz. Oh, and every influencer I saw had it in a cute glass, which I’m certain is important if you want to have the recipe absolutely perfect. Because what drink doesn’t taste better when served in a pretty glass?
Reviews on the Sleepy Girl Mocktail are all pretty conclusive: It tastes great and, even better, it works. One user even tracked her sleep with an Oura ring to measure her recovery, showing a pretty high 94% sleep score, along with a hearty self-reported endorsement.
Some people have also been trying it on their husbands and wives, and while it’s less scientific, the snores seem to speak for themselves. It should, of course, go without saying, but please don’t give anyone Sleepy Girl Mocktails without asking them first. Not everyone wants to be Sleeping Beauty!
Putting Tart Cherry to the Test
After the mountain of evidence I witnessed online, a.k.a. TikToks, I had to put this hack to the test. Unfortunately, being in the middle of Indiana didn’t quite afford me access to all the right ingredients, so I made a few substitutions. First, I’m not sure where people are getting powdered magnesium, but the pharmacist looked at me like I was crazy for mentioning it, so I hid my shame and went to grab the normal vitamin-format version instead. Tart cherry concentrate was also wayyy more expensive than anticipated ($22? In this economy?) so I went with a bottle of normal tart cherry juice instead. Note: Apparently, tart cherry juice and cherry juice are the same thing. Who knew? The one thing I managed to get right was finding Olipop soda, which, though I’m pretty sure it’s just a mixer for this mocktail, at least felt like I was able to do something correctly.
I’ll admit that, at first, I didn’t really get the hype. The drink didn’t seem to make me any sleepier than normal, and going to bed I was basically assuming the whole project was going to be a bust. The drink tasted good, but I wasn’t feeling the need to totally pass out. Then I got into bed. What happened next felt like how I imagine characters in fantasy movies feel when they fall asleep for 100 years and are awoken by a prophecy. Only I didn’t get a prophecy – I got a golden retriever licking my face and wondering how I’d just slept nine hours straight. Word to the wise: Set an alarm if you’re trying this mocktail!
So is this just one big placebo? Actually, as it turns out, it’s not. The ingredients in the mocktail are just naturally very good at getting you ready to doze. Tart cherry juice, the main ingredient in the mocktail, has been studied for its effects on insomnia specifically. In one double-blind, randomized controlled study, tart cherry juice outperformed placebos and other sleep supplements like valerian root, producing “significant reductions in insomnia severity.” Unlike over the counter sleep aids, tart cherry juice helps increase the bioavailability of tryptophan, helping your body produce melatonin, as well as antioxidants.
Magnesium also helps you sleep, though researchers still aren’t sure exactly how. One theory is that it plays a role in regulating GABA and decreasing the stress hormone cortisol, acting as a natural sedative by calming your central nervous system. Another theory is that it inhibits a neurotransmitter called the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor, promoting muscle relaxation and sleep. One important magnesium-related point with the sleepy girl mocktail, though: This mocktail calls for magnesium glycinate, not magnesium citrate, which you can also find over the counter. While it’s unlikely to hurt you, magnesium citrate is used as a laxative, often for things like colonoscopy prep, and as one podcaster learned the hard way.
A lot of people are losing sleep over insomnia. One recent study suggests that one in four Americans develop insomnia every year, and although it’s a temporary annoyance for most of them, the lack of sleep can have real and lasting health consequences. TikTok may not always have foolproof health advice, but the Sleepy Girl Mocktail is surprisingly solid. If insomnia is keeping you up at night, you might be tempted to grab some prescription drugs or over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, but there are some incredible benefits to going all-natural. The #sleepygirlmocktail, it seems, is going viral for all the right reasons.
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