How Many Calories Do You Burn Sleeping? Your Nighttime Energy Expenditure

how many calories you burn sleeping

While you are asleep, your body continues to carry out essential functions such as breathing, circulating blood, and repairing tissues, all of which require energy and burn calories.

Although the number of calories burned during sleep is lower than during waking hours, it isn’t negligible. The exact amount varies based on individual metabolic rates and other factors but can be a considerable part of your daily energy expenditure.

Calculating the amount of calories burned during sleep requires understanding one’s basal metabolic rate (BMR), which represents the number of calories the body needs at rest to maintain vital functions. Sleep is the time when the body can recover and reset for the next day, and even though it is a state of rest, energy continues to be expended.

Key Takeaways

  • Sleep contributes to daily caloric burn by supporting vital bodily functions.
  • Various factors including basal metabolic rate influence caloric expenditure during sleep.
  • Accurate calculation of calories burned can inform better health and lifestyle decisions.

Calories and Energy Expenditure

Calories and Energy Expenditure During Rest

Calories are the units of energy that are essential for maintaining bodily functions while at rest and during activities. The amount of energy expended greatly varies based on a person’s basal metabolic rate and several other factors.

What Are Calories?

What are Calories

Calories are a measure of energy that comes from the food we eat. They fuel every bodily process, from breathing and circulation to muscle contraction. One calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) represents the number of calories the body requires to maintain basic physiological functions like heartbeats, breathing, and maintaining body temperature while at rest. This resting metabolic rate is influenced by several factors including age, gender, weight, and muscle mass.

Factors Affecting Caloric Burn

Factors Affecting Caloric Burn

Several factors affect the number of calories an individual burns, including:

  • Age: Metabolism typically slows with age, reducing caloric burn.
  • Exercise: Higher levels of physical activity increase caloric expenditure.
  • Weight: Heavier individuals burn more calories, even at rest.
  • Muscle Mass: Muscle burns more calories at rest than fat.
  • Gender: On average, men have a higher BMR due to larger muscle mass.

Overall, while everyone burns calories during sleep, the actual number depends on these and other individual factors.

Sleep and Caloric Burn

During sleep, the body continues to burn calories to sustain essential functions. Understanding the relationship between sleep and caloric burn can be valuable for those managing weight or monitoring their health.

Calories Burned During Sleep

Sleeping-Burning Calories

Individuals typically burn calories at a rate determined by their hourly basal metabolic rate (BMR), even while sleeping. For instance, a person who weighs around 125 pounds may burn approximately 38 calories per hour of sleep. However, this can vary based on body weight and individual BMR. Factors such as age, gender, and muscle mass also influence the caloric expenditure during sleep.

Impact of Sleep Stages on Calorie Burn


Sleep progresses through several stages, including REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep, each affecting calorie burn differently. Non-REM sleep is characterized by a lower heart rate and reduced brain activity, which may lead to a decrease in calorie burn.

Conversely, during REM sleep, which is associated with dreams, the brain is highly active and the body’s thermogenesis may increase, potentially leading to a higher rate of calorie burn.

Sleep Disorders and Weight

Sleep disorders like sleep apnea and sleep deprivation can have an impact on weight due to their effect on sleep quality and duration. Obesity is commonly linked with sleep apnea, creating a complex relationship between sleep disorders and body weight.

Poor sleep quality may lead to hormonal imbalances that increase appetite, while adequate sleep supports mental health and optimal metabolic function, playing a role in maintaining a healthy weight.

Influences on Sleep-Related Energy Expenditure

The number of calories burned during sleep is not a fixed value; it is influenced by dietary choices, the sleep environment, and pre-sleep activities. Understanding these variables can help optimize sleep for better metabolic outcomes.

Effect of Diet on Sleep and Metabolism

Diets high in protein and carbohydrates

The intake of certain substances like caffeine and alcohol prior to sleep can affect metabolic rate. Caffeine, a stimulant, can reduce sleep quality, which might alter the energy expenditure.

Conversely, alcohol can cause an initial increase in insulin followed by a drop in blood glucose levels, potentially affecting the body’s overnight metabolic processes. Diets high in protein and carbohydrates can also influence glucose regulation and may impact the energy used during sleep due to the processes of digestion and temperature regulation.

Temperature and Sleep Environment

The body’s ability to maintain temperature regulation during sleep is critical for calorie burning. A cool bedroom can enhance the quality of sleep and increase the body’s energy expenditure by prompting it to generate more heat. This aspect of sleep hygiene informs the best practices for setting up a sleep-conducive environment that can subtly influence metabolism.

Exercise and Pre-Sleep Routine

Engaging in strength training and other forms of physical activity can positively impact basal metabolic rate and thus increase calories burned during sleep. However, one’s pre-sleep routine should be conducive to winding down; a workout too close to bedtime may disrupt the sleep schedule. Adequate timing and type of exercise are crucial for leveraging physical activity to enhance sleep-related energy expenditure.

Health Considerations and Calories

When considering the relationship between sleep and calorie expenditure, it’s important to examine not just the raw numbers but how various health factors interplay to affect metabolic rate and energy usage during rest.

General Health and Metabolic Rate

The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is crucial for understanding how many calories an individual burns at rest, including during sleep. This rate can be influenced by overall health conditions; for instance, a strong immune system and efficient digestion contribute to a higher BMR. On the contrary, conditions like hypothyroidism can lower the BMR, reducing caloric burn.

Medical Conditions Affecting Caloric Burn

Certain medical conditions have a direct impact on how many calories one burns during sleep. For example, increased levels of cortisol, frequently seen in individuals with Cushing syndrome, can alter metabolism and may lead to changes in weight management. People with this condition typically have a higher caloric burn because of the increased energy required to sustain bodily processes.

Nutrition, Sleep Quality, and Energy Usage

The quality of sleep and type of food ingested are significant factors in how the body uses energy. A diet high in added sugars may disturb sleep patterns and subsequently, the body’s ability to burn calories efficiently.

On the other hand, adequate nutrition supports restful sleep, allowing for optimal energy usage and calorie burning. A balanced diet, therefore, supports weight management and overall health by influencing both appetite and sleep quality.

Lifestyle and Its Impact on Caloric Consumption

Lifestyle has a significant influence on the number of calories an individual burns while sleeping. The integration of technology in the bedroom, the choice of sleep accessories, and daily routines all contribute to the overall quality of rest and, consequently, the body’s metabolic rate during sleep.

Technology and Sleep Patterns

Screen Time

The use of technology such as TVs, computers, and smartphones prior to sleep can disrupt natural sleep patterns. Exposure to blue light emitted by screens can suppress the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, leading to reduced sleep quality. Poor sleep quality may affect the body’s ability to burn calories efficiently, as the body needs restful sleep to maintain a healthy metabolism.

Sleep Accessories and Their Role

mattress - Impact on Sleep Quality

Investing in the right mattresses and bedding can enhance sleep comfort and quality. A good mattress supports proper spinal alignment, which can reduce the stress on the body during sleep, allowing for a more restful state.

Individuals with a minimalist approach to their home environment often prefer a clutter-free bedroom, which can foster a calm atmosphere conducive to better sleep and, in turn, optimal caloric consumption.

Daily Habits and Rest

An individual’s daily habits, such as meals and physical activity levels, also influence caloric consumption during sleep. Going to bed with hunger may lead to restlessness, whereas eating too close to bedtime can cause discomfort and disrupt sleep.

Physical activity during the day helps in improving sleep quality and increases the calories burned during rest. The goal is to achieve a balance that promotes restful sleep and supports the body’s natural caloric burn.

Calculating Caloric Burn During Sleep

To determine how many calories one burns while sleeping, two primary methods can be applied: the Harris-Benedict Equation to estimate overall caloric needs, and calculating the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which measures the energy expended at rest.

Using the Harris-Benedict Equation

The Harris-Benedict Equation takes into account gender, age, weight, height, and level of physical activity to approximate daily calorie requirements. For the purposes of sleep, the sedentary level of activity is often used:

  • Men: BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) – (5.677 x age in years)
  • Women: BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) – (4.330 x age in years)

To apply this to sleep, one would multiply the BMR by a factor that represents a sedentary activity level, typically 1.2, to get the total energy expenditure per day and divide by 24 to find the hourly burn rate.

Estimating Basal Metabolic Rate

The Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is an estimation of the energy expended by the body to maintain basic physiological functions while at rest, including sleeping. It varies according to one’s size, age, and sex:

  • A larger body mass increases BMR as more energy is required to sustain a larger body.
  • Age affects BMR, with a general decrease in metabolic rate as one gets older.
  • Differences between sexes are due to variations in body composition.

To estimate calories burned during sleep using BMR, one would take the calculated BMR and divide by 24 to find the hourly rate, then multiply by the number of hours spent sleeping. However, actual energy burned can differ and should be adjusted based on individual factors. These methods offer a straightforward approach to approximating the energy the body uses during rest.


Can different sleep positions affect calorie burn during sleep?

While the impact is minimal, certain sleep positions can slightly alter calorie burn due to variations in muscle activity and breathing efficiency. However, the difference is not significant enough to impact overall caloric expenditure.

Do dreams increase calorie burn during sleep?

Although dreaming occurs during REM sleep, a phase with slightly higher metabolic activity, the increase in calorie burn due to dreaming is not substantial. The brain’s increased activity during dreaming does not significantly affect overall calorie expenditure.

How does the quality of sleep affect calorie burning?

Good quality sleep can enhance metabolic rate by improving overall health and hormonal balance. Poor sleep can disrupt metabolic processes and hormonal balances, potentially lowering the rate at which calories are burned.

Can taking sleep supplements or medications affect how many calories are burned during sleep?

Some sleep aids and medications can influence metabolic rate and sleep architecture. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional about the potential impacts of any sleep-related medication on metabolic rate.

Does the timing of meals before sleep influence calorie burn?

Eating close to bedtime can affect digestion and sleep quality, which might alter metabolic rate during sleep. Ideally, there should be a gap of a couple of hours between the last meal and bedtime to optimize metabolic processes during sleep.

Final Words

Understanding the relationship between sleep and caloric burn can be a key component in managing overall health and well-being. While the number of calories burned during sleep is influenced by various factors, optimizing sleep quality and habits can support a healthy metabolic rate and contribute to better health outcomes.

Remember, a holistic approach combining diet, exercise, and good sleep practices is essential for maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

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