The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on many aspects of daily life, and sleep is no exception. But now, in the wake of reports that many Americans are currently battling insomnia, PepsiCo Inc. has announced a new product that aims to help curb what’s been deemed “coronasomnia.”
“Driftwell” — as PepsiCo Inc. has named it — is a 7.5-ounce blackberry-lavender drink containing 200 grams of a supplement known as L-theanine and 10 percent of the daily recommended dose of magnesium. The idea for the non-carbonated drink, which may hit grocery store shelves as early as January, was reportedly born during an internal PepsiCo Inc. competition aimed at finding a new product. This one, according to CNBC, is focused on “help[ing] consumers de-stress and relax before bed.”
The new beverage, sold in a blue and yellow can with the tagline “sip into relaxation,” will reportedly retail for $17.99/10-pack. PepsiCo Inc. has not released further details about the drink (and did immediately reply to Yahoo Life’s request for comment), but Emily Silver, PepsiCo's vice president of innovation, told CNN that the company saw a “massive need” to enter the stress-relief market.
Although Driftwell may seem like welcome news in the anxiety-ridden time of COVID-19, it begs the question: Is a drink from one of the biggest soda makers in the world really the secret to better sleep? Dr. Rachel Salas, a sleep expert and associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine isn’t convinced. Before it hits shelves next year, here’s what you need to know.
Experts do not recommend L-theanine as a treatment for sleep disorders
PepsiCo Inc. has suggested that the drink may help “ease angst and restlessness,” citing the inclusion of L-theanine, an amino acid found in certain tea leaves and mushrooms. The supplement, which is available in tea form or pills, has not been widely studied. One randomized controlled trial from 2008 found that it may “[relax] the mind,” but also noted that it did so “without inducing drowsiness.”
Anecdotally, Salas has heard from some patients that L-theanine helped with sleep, but it’s not something that doctors recommend. “It’s a supplement, so it’s not followed by the FDA, and there’s not enough evidence-based medicine to showcase it,” Salas tells Yahoo Life. “It’s definitely not in our clinical practice parameters by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.”
Salas says that many of her patients who have tried L-theanine have also tried melatonin, which is sometimes used alongside it in the same product. Driftwell also contains magnesium, which Salas says falls along similar lines. “I think that all of these ingredients that are out there for the mainstream have anecdotal, or maybe some light research, to support it,” says Salas. “But, you know, it's still up in the air.” Experts have noted that there is “not strong scientific evidence” to support magnesium as a treatment for insomnia.
Anyone interested in trying Driftwell should first talk to their doctor
Neither L-theanine nor magnesium have been linked to any serious side effects, and Salas has not heard about major complications from her patients. Still, she says adding any type of supplement to your diet without consulting your doctor can be risky. “In general when people are trying different things, even CBD oil, I just counsel them that these things are not followed by the FDA,” says Salas. “So you have different companies with their own formulations.” On top of recognizing that doses may vary widely, she says that individuals should be cognizant of possible drug interactions.
It’s one of the reasons, she says, that the new drink concerns her. “I always worry what could go wrong, because I think when you turn this over to the layperson they might not have the full story,” says Salas. “So they may not know, ‘Oh, this could interact with my other medications that I take for my high blood pressure.’” She also worries that individuals will get lax on dosing. “Overall most of us are concerned about things that are available over the counter,” says Salas. “Without a prescription, people kind of have the idea that they must be really safe and they take it on themselves to come up with a dose.”
Salas says that those who are interested in trying the drink when it comes out should first talk to their doctor, but adds that the “gold standard” for insomnia remains cognitive behavioral therapy. “That's where they work with the sleep behavioral psychologist to kind of retrain the brain not to have those conditioned behaviors,” says Salas. “Insomnia is really a mixed bag kind of chronic disorder — meaning that everybody has different stress environmental issues. That's why it's so difficult to treat.”
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