Will This Nighttime Cereal Bring You Sweet Dreams?

The Lempert Report
March 20, 2023

On today’s Bullseye – cereal isn’t just for breakfast anymore. Post Consumer Brands, the cereal company known for Raisin Bran, Honey Maid S’Mores, Grape-Nuts and Fruity Pebbles, has now introduced a new line of cereals that it wants you to include in your nightly sleep routine. It’s called Sweet Dreams. A “4th meal of the day” concept that is a cereal of crunchy flakes and almonds, available in 2 flavors: Blueberry Midnight and Honey Moonglow with, according to the company, a nighttime herbal blend of lavender and chamomile, and curated vitamins and minerals like Zinc, Folic Acid and B vitamins to support natural melatonin production. Sweet Dreams Honey Moonglow cereal has 240 calories, 6 grams of fat, 180 mg of sodium, 43 grams of total carbs, and contains 12 grams of added sugars from cane sugar, corn syrup, honey and molasses. That’s before adding milk which naturally contains 13 grams of sugar in a cup.

According to the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, Added sugars not only negatively affects health and life quality, but their published study, Relationship Between Added Sugar Intake and Sleep Quality Among University Students: A Cross-sectional Study concluded that poor sleep quality was significantly related to higher added sugar intake. Post says its goal is to help people establish healthy nighttime habits “by providing a nutrient dense before-bed snack” that supports your sleep routine. Seriously? Here’s the facts: more than half of all adults in the United States experience difficulty falling asleep, and 1 in 5 have insomnia. So I guess a brilliant brand manager at Post  came up with Sweet Dreams to boost sales and create a 4th meal of the day. And ignored the science about added sugars. To be fair, the cereal does contain Zinc, which has shown to improve sleep quality.

Sweet Dreams has 50% of the Daily Value of Zinc, that translates to around 5 to 6 mg of Zinc. But in an NIH published study, sleep improved when the participants consumed 15 mg daily for 12 weeks. The cereal also contains Niacin – 80% of the recommended daily value – but studies show that the niacin dosages for better sleep range between 50 to 1,000 mg. Sweet Dreams contains about 13 mg.  Yes, Food as Medicine is the buzzword of the day – but if in fact it is going to change our health outcomes it has to be steeped in rigorous and proven science. I do like the fact that the first ingredient is Whole Grain wheat and whole grains is linked to better sleep. As far as the claim that Sweet Dreams ingredients support natural melatonin production, that’s partly true. Almost all plants, including tomatoes, rice, walnuts and olives contain melatonin, and zinc, magnesium and B vitamins support its production. But to synthesize melatonin we need tryptophan, an amino acid that is in milk, salmon, tuna, nuts and poultry. So, make sure you add milk to your Sweet Dreams – it’ll also taste a lot better than adding salmon or chicken. Or as the old wives tale goes – maybe just have a glass of warm milk before bedtime? It does contain tryptophan, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, potassium, Vitamin D and melatonin. And do we really need a 4th meal of the day, after all Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that the percent of adults aged 20 and over that are obese or overweight tops 73%; and according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans added sugars can lead to health problems including weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease – sugars should be less than 10% of our daily total calories.