How Your Body Burns Calories While You Sleep (According to Science)

Sleeping.com Editorial Team

Overweight man sleeping on yoga mat

What are your favorite things to do to burn calories? It turns out you can add sleeping to your list. While getting into bed won’t burn as many calories as doing cardio, you can still enjoy minimal calorie burn while getting some shut-eye. But how many calories do you burn sleeping?

If you’re wondering if you burn calories while sleeping, we’ve compiled this guide for you. 

What Is BMR?

So, how many calories do you burn sleeping? To find out, you must know what your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is. This term refers to the number of calories needed to ensure your body keeps functioning as you rest. 

This measure includes functions like cellular growth and repair, temperature regulation, breathing, and circulation, among many others. BMR varies from one person to another. The factors that affect BMR include: 

Height and Weight

A person with larger bones and a larger frame has a higher BMR. 

Gender

On average, men have a higher BMR than women. To put this into perspective, women burn 1,600 to 2,200 calories per day, while men can burn 2,200 to 3,000 calories per day. 

Age

As you age, your BMR often drops by 2-5% each decade

Fitness

Those with higher lean body mass and muscle mass have higher BMR. 

Sleep Length and Quality

How long you sleep also affects your BMR. The longer you sleep, the more calories you can burn. 

Diet

The amount of calories you eat also affects your BMR. When you stick to a healthy diet, you can easily manage your body’s fat ratio.  

Race and Genetics

To some extent, your race and genetics can also affect how many calories you burn while sleeping. 

Other Conditions 

Conditions such as menopause, lactation, and pregnancy can increase or lower your BMR. If you think you are dealing with a medical condition that affects your metabolism, it is always best to first consult with a doctor before making any medical-related decision.

How Many Calories Do You Burn Sleeping?

By now, you may be wondering: do you burn calories when you sleep? The answer is a resounding yes. According to research, you can burn 40 to 55 calories per hour while sleeping. However, this is not the same for everyone.   

If you want to get the exact calories you burn as you sleep, there are some things you should know.   

When you are sleeping, your body’s metabolic rate is at 85% to 95% of your normal BMR during the day. 

But how many calories do you burn sleeping? To find out, you need to figure out your daily BMR, then divide it by 24 to know your hourly metabolic rate. Then, multiply this by .85, which is based on your BMR as you sleep. From here, you can determine how many calories you burn per hour while sleeping.  

So, does sleeping burn calories? When asking this question, it’s important to note that the number of calories burned while sleeping decreases with age, and it increases with body weight. 

To put it into perspective, a 125-pound person burns 19 calories per hour while sleeping, a 155-pound person burns 22 calories, and a 185-pound person burns 26 calories. 

This amount may not sound like a huge number, but when you multiply it by 8, which falls in the amount of recommended sleeping hours by the CDC, the results jump to 152 calories, 176 calories, and 208 calories, respectively. 

What Happens to Your Metabolism During Sleep?

It shouldn’t surprise you that sleep is connected to different metabolic processes in your body, and it’s integral for maintaining metabolic homeostasis

These vital functions are why those who are sleep deprived or have sleep disorders are more prone to dealing with metabolic and cardiovascular issues.  

But do you burn the same amount of calories in different sleep stages?  

Although basic functions of your body are still maintained, your body’s energy requirements shift as you go through different sleep stages. 

For example, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the most energy-intensive stage. During this stage, your heart rate intensifies, and your brain shows similar activity patterns as when you are awake. Because of this, your brain needs more glucose, which leads to a higher metabolism. 

Meanwhile, in the third stage, your core body temperature, brain activity, heart rate, and respiration decrease. This period is when your body releases growth hormones important for your immune system. 

But because the brain does not need as much glucose compared to REM Sleep, your metabolism is low.  

How to Burn Calories While Sleeping

Does sleeping burn calories? You now know the answer, but you may now be wondering what your options are if you want to burn more calories while sleeping.  

The answer lies in increasing your BMR. It’s important to note that there are people who fall into the slow metabolism category. If this is the case, shifting the calories you burn while sleeping can become a slow process. 

However, you can still make some lifestyle changes to affect your metabolism. Here are some tips you can follow to burn more calories as you sleep. 

Get Enough Sleep

Make sure that you get enough sleep every day because poor sleep is linked to weight gain. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces cortisol, and your metabolism decreases because this stress hormone tells your body to conserve energy for your waking hours. 

If you don’t get enough sleep, you are also more likely to have higher cardiovascular risks, and your immune system will not function as expected.

For those struggling to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night, it is important to limit your electronic and television use because these devices emit blue light, which affects your body’s ability to prepare for sleep. 

Do Strength Training

Strength training helps to improve your bone density, which keeps your body’s metabolic rate high. It also increases your lean muscle mass, and this helps to boost your metabolism. 

More than that, your body will continue to burn calories even after your strength training session is over. Try to target larger muscle groups like your arms, core, and legs. 

If you don’t have enough time during the day to go to the gym, then bodyweight exercises are a great way to burn calories. This is because each time you perform a bodyweight exercise, your body burns calories, leading to a greater metabolic rate for the entire day, even as you sleep. 

Schedule Your Meals

Your body is dependent on its circadian rhythm, which refers to the 24-hour schedule that helps you function. Think of it as your body’s internal block. The hours you eat influence your circadian rhythm greatly. 

For instance, if your body is used to eating dinner between 7 to 9 p.m., then it prepares for the incoming food by releasing hormones that make you feel hungry, then your body prepares to digest the meal and wind you down for sleep. By keeping this schedule, your body can be more prepared to get the most out of your sleep. 

Don’t Binge During Dinner

Your body is designed to burn calories during your waking hours, and it will burn fewer calories during your sleep. This is why eating a huge meal that is too close to your bedtime also leads to weight gain, so make sure that you eat the right amount of food.  

Sleep in a Cool and Dark Environment 

Your bedroom can also play a role in how many calories you burn sleeping. A small study found out that people who sleep in a bedroom with a steady temperature of 66 degrees in a month boosted their metabolism by 10%.  

Treat Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions impact your metabolism, such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, and inflammation. Make sure that you are aware of these conditions and that you take care of them immediately. 

When you address your underlying medical condition, you can help your metabolism to stay on track. 

Consume Foods High in Protein and Fiber

By consuming foods high in protein and fiber, you can increase your body’s BMR. Protein helps you stay full for a longer period, so you are less likely to snack on empty calories. Additionally, fiber makes you feel fuller than other foods that are higher in calories. 

Drink Coffee 

Drinking coffee may give you a mini metabolism boost. This is because small doses of caffeine may help you to lose weight. After all, it enhances lipolysis or the breakdown of fat cells to be used as energy. Though it’s small, your metabolism is still higher. 

But if you’re a coffee-lover, don’t get too excited just yet. Keep in mind that consuming too much caffeine can lead to trouble falling asleep. 

Final Thoughts

So to recap: how many calories do you burn sleeping? The answer is dependent on many factors. Although the number of calories that are burned while sleeping isn’t a huge number, it’s still important to know how many calories you burn while sleeping so that you can maintain your weight or lose weight if you’re looking to slim down.

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