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Can a ‘Sleepy Girl Mocktail’ Really Help You Sleep?

What science says about this trendy three-ingredient bedtime drink


spinner image a glass of a cherry mocktail with a mint garnish a sleep eye mask is wrapped around the glass
Getty Images/AARP

What if there was a drink you could have before bed that would help you get a better night’s sleep? That’s what the viral internet sensation “sleepy girl mocktail” promises. Mix tart cherry juice with a spoonful of magnesium and a splash of prebiotic soda to get the best sleep of your life.

“This is working wonders,” writes Gracie Norton,whose TikTok video showing her mixing the mocktail now has more than 1.6 million views. She claims the elixir is “a match made in heaven for good sleep.”

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Who wouldn’t want that?

After all, sleep is crucial to physical and mental health and many of us are searching for remedies for a better night’s slumber. Nearly half of older adults have trouble falling or staying asleep, and over a third of older adults use some kind of medication to help sleep, according to a National Poll on Aging.

But could the three-ingredient concoction popularized by a 28 -year-old model and influencer be the magic sleep potion we are looking for? We talked to experts to find out.

Sleepy girl mocktail ingredient no. 1: tart cherry juice

Tart cherries, also called sour cherries, are linked to a number of health benefits. Unlike their sweet cherry cousins, these little fruits are sour enough that they are usually eaten dried, frozen or juiced. Packed with vitamin A, C, antioxidants and flavonoids, some studies have found tart cherry juice may reduce muscle soreness, help symptoms of gout, strengthen the immune system and even reduce blood pressure.

But the purpose of the juice in this particular mocktail ­— a mocktail can be any cocktail-like drink that doesn't contain alcohol — is to help with sleep. Some intriguing research implies that it just might.

“Interestingly, tart cherry juice contains high concentrations of melatonin,” says Sheau Ching Chai, an associate professor and registered dietitian at the University of Delaware.

Melatonin is a sleep hormone that helps the body transition to sleep. The tart cherry fruit also has tryptophan, an amino acid famously found in turkey. The body uses tryptophan to help make melatonin and serotonin — the latter a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep, among other things.

Chai says that research has found the juice can improve total sleep time and increase melatonin concentration in the blood. One study found that older adults with chronic insomnia who drank the juice for two weeks slept better than those who drank a placebo juice without tart cherries.

Chai is currently conducting a study in postmenopausal women to see if the juice can help with sleep and also improve heart health. Half of the women in the study will drink two cups of tart cherry juice a day, including one before bed, and half the women will drink a placebo cherry-flavored juice. The researchers will use smart watches to measure sleep and also test whether the tart cherry juice may improve heart health.

In a previous study, Chai and colleagues found that tart cherry juice reduced systolic blood pressure (the top number), inflammation, LDL “bad” cholesterol and oxidative stress.

Her study subjects haven’t reported negative effects from the juice, though a few dropped out because they didn’t like the taste. Chai says her participants are using concentrate made from Montmorency cherries, a type of tart cherry, mixed with water, but the nutritional value for tart cherry juice and the concentrate mixed with water are comparable.

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Sleep and heart health are linked, she says, so it may be that the better sleep prompted by the tart cherry juice could also improve heart health. “We don’t know, but this is our hypothesis,” she says.

 Sleepy girl mocktail ingredient no. 2: magnesium

The body uses magnesium for more than 300 processes, including nerve function, blood sugar levels, making protein and maintaining blood pressure. It’s found naturally in many healthy foods, including nuts, seeds, whole grains, yogurt and green leafy vegetables such as spinach.

Although most people get enough magnesium from their diets, older adults, people with chronic alcoholism and those with type 2 diabetes are at risk for having a deficiency, which can cause fatigue, weakness and muscle aches.

People who get enough magnesium have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Higher levels are also linked to longer sleep times and less tiredness during the day, according to the Sleep Foundation. Some studies have found that a magnesium supplement can help with melatonin production.

 Sleepy Girl Mocktail Recipe

  • ½ cup of tart cherry juice (either juice or concentrate mixed with water)
  • 1 tablespoon of magnesium powder (glycinate or citrate)
  • Splash of prebiotic soda or soda water

Note: Speak with your doctor before starting any new supplement.

(Source: Cleveland Clinic)

But can magnesium powder help people sleep better?

Magnesium is a crucial nutrient for the body, says Katherine Zeratsky, registered dietitian nutritionist at the Mayo Clinic, but “when you actually look at some of the sleep literature, it’s weak and it’s mostly by association.”

A few studies are promising. One older study of older adults found that those who took magnesium supplements said they slept longer and more soundly. They also produced more melatonin than those who took a placebo.

Another 2021 review of studies in older adults found that total sleep time was improved only slightly. The researchers concluded, though, that because the supplement is cheap and widely available, the evidence supports trying it for insomnia.

If you want to try taking magnesium powder for sleep, look for magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate, recommends the Cleveland Clinic. Avoid magnesium oxide, as it’s used as a laxative and can cause diarrhea and stomach pain.

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Sleepy girl mocktail ingredient no. 3: prebiotic soda

The third ingredient in the sleep girl mocktail recipe popularized by Norton, a dash of prebiotic soda, likely wouldn’t do much, Zeratsky says. Although she says there is fascinating research going on about prebiotics for everything from sleep to gut health, a splash of this soda “might just be for the bubbles.” Sparkling water would have a similar effect.

Use caution before trying a sleepy girl mocktail

There are a few things to consider, Zeratsky says, before mixing a bedtime beverage for yourself — including talking to your doctor.

First, some of the tart cherry juices commonly found in stores can contain a lot of sugar and calories. For those drinking two ounces of the concentrate daily, mixed with water, that could be more than 200 calories a day, she says, adding that some people are also “very stimulated by sugar in the evening.”

Anyone watching their weight or sugar content of food might want to consider that.

Second, regarding the magnesium in the mocktail, any time you consider taking a supplement, you need to think about how it might interact with your medications. Magnesium, for example, can interact with bisphosphonates, which are prescribed for osteoporosis. And tart cherry juice may interact with medications as well, including blood thinners, antibiotics and corticosteroids. So ask your doctor before taking any new supplements (and remind them what meds you are taking).

Third, Zeratsky says, many older people can struggle with frequent urination and the need to get up and pee in the night. Drinking this mocktail right before bed might exacerbate that issue.

Zeratsky says the best research around on what helps people get good sleep might not be as exciting as a trendy TikTok video, but it’s helpful for the things most of us already know.

Stick with a Mediterranean, plant-forward style of eating, and avoid large meals and spicy foods before bed. Regular exercise helps. Get plenty of light in the morning, keep your bedroom dark at night and try to avoid electronics before hitting the hay.

An evening ritual can be calming for people and induce good sleep, Zeratsky says, so given the above caveats, if the sleepy girl mocktail — or a cup of chamomile tea  — helps you wind down and relieves stress as part of your bedtime routine, it could be worth a try.

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