You’ve heard of breakfast cereal. But what about bedtime cereal?

Post Consumer Brands, the cereal company known for Raisin Bran, Grape-Nuts and Fruity Pebbles, has launched a new line of cereals that it wants you to include in your nightly sleep routine.

The cereal of crunchy flakes and almonds, called Sweet Dreams, comes with a description that reads like a box of herbal tea, touting notes of lavender and chamomile, as well as vitamins and minerals intended to support your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin. But Sweet Dreams cereal also contains as much as 13 grams of added sugar from cane sugar, corn syrup, “invert sugar” and molasses, which according to studies can be detrimental to your nightly sleep.

The company says its goal is to help people establish healthy nighttime habits “by providing a nutrient dense before-bed snack” that supports your sleep routine.

But some studies have found that eating late-night meals, including those with a lot of added sugar, actually can worsen your sleep and increase your risk of obesity. Although some of the vitamins contained in Post’s new cereal can influence your body’s melatonin levels, experts say it’s not clear that they’ll have more than a minor impact, especially when consumed in the evening.

“You’re not going to eat this at 7 p.m. and have it boost your melatonin secretion at 9 p.m. to help you fall asleep,” said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, an associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the director of the Sleep Center of Excellence at Columbia. “It’s not going to be a quick-fix two hours before bedtime.”


Sweet Dreams is one of a growing number of nighttime snacks marketed to a large segment of sleep-deprived consumers in search of better shut-eye.

Studies show that more than half of all adults in the United States experience difficulty falling asleep, and 1 in 5 have insomnia. Marketing late-night meals as sleep enhancers is a way for the food industry to achieve one of its longtime objectives: To boost sales by creating a so-called fourth meal that follows dinner.

“It’s a potential new eating occasion,” said Nicholas Fereday, the executive director of food and consumer trends at investment firm Rabobank. “If they can somehow turn it into a ritual, and it becomes more habit rather than the occasional thing, they’ll start getting their repeat purchases.”

Expanding into late-night meals is a timely move for the cereal industry, which has lost ground in its fight over “share of stomach” to other breakfast-food competitors.

Despite an uptick in sales during the pandemic, cold cereal has largely been on the decline as breakfast habits have changed, with more people either skipping breakfast, eating foods on the go or opting for “healthier” meals – such as eggs and Greek yogurt – that are higher in protein and lower in sugar.

Other food companies are catering to late-night snackers. Nightfood sells “sleep-friendly” cookies and ice creams with vitamin B6, magnesium, zinc and other ingredients.


Numerous candy bars and chocolates infused with melatonin, herbal extracts and other ingredients claim to help you sleep. One company sells “sleepy chocolate” candy bars with magnesium, melatonin, and a blend of botanicals “designed to help you fall asleep faster and more soundly.” You can wash it down with PepsiCo’s Driftwell brand of still-water, which contains L-theanine and magnesium and is marketed to help you wind down before bed.

Scientists know that what you eat plays a role in how you sleep. Diets high in sugar, saturated fat and simple carbohydrates like white bread are associated with poorer sleep. Large studies show that eating a diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and foods high in unsaturated fats like fish, olive oil, nuts and avocados is linked to better sleep.

One reason a diet high in plant foods may help: Almost all plants, including tomatoes, olives, rice and walnuts, contain melatonin in varying concentrations. And a healthy diet provides nutrients that support the production of melatonin, such as zinc, magnesium and B vitamins. To synthesize melatonin, your body needs tryptophan, an amino acid, which you can find in milk, salmon, tuna, nuts and poultry.

St-Onge has found in her research that people who eat a lot of simple carbs wake up more frequently throughout the night.

But eating complex carbs keep blood sugar levels stable throughout the night, she said, resulting in better sleep. Some of her favorite “sleep-promoting foods” are cruciferous and green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, olive oil and lentils.

She recommends not eating too close to bedtime. But you also shouldn’t go to bed hungry. If you need a nighttime snack, she suggests eating something light, such as a bowl of plain yogurt with fresh fruit.


Erin Hanlon, a research associate professor at the University of Chicago and behavioral neuroscientist who studies sleep, said it’s fascinating to see companies marketing foods for a better night’s sleep. But, she adds, a box of sugary cereal might not be “the best way forward.”

Hanlon suggested dimming lights and limiting screen exposure, because light stops the brain from releasing melatonin.

Logan Sohn, a senior brand manager at Post, said the company recommends eating Sweet Dreams cereal as part of a relaxing bedtime routine that includes things like switching off electronic devices and practicing meditation.

As with any snack, people should consume it in moderation “while being mindful of other added sugars they are consuming throughout the day,” he said.

Tamarah Logan, a 56-year-old writer in Los Angeles, was shopping at Walmart last month when she spotted the blue box of Sweet Dreams with the tagline, “part of a healthy sleep routine.”

Logan said she has long struggled with sleep, getting only four or five hours of uninterrupted slumber each night. She doesn’t want to take supplements. So, she bought a box of Sweet Dreams Honey Moonglow, which she has been eating instead of dessert.

“I’ll have a bowl of cereal several hours before bedtime, instead of dessert or instead of a cookie with my tea,” she said. “I’m a kid of the ’70s. I grew up on boxed cereal. It’s comfort food for me.”

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