Do You Burn Calories When You Sleep?

When you go to sleep, it might seem like your entire body enters into a state of rest. But there’s actually a lot of activity going on – including burning calories.

By Nicole Gleichmann

As long as you’re alive and breathing, you’re burning calories. Burning calories is simply what your body does to provide itself with fuel. Think of yourself like a car and calories like your gasoline; even when you’re at a stoplight, your car is still burning through fuel. So, even when you’re sleeping, your body is still burning calories.

What might come as a surprise is that your body burns nearly as many calories when sleeping as it does when you’re chilling on your couch watching Netflix. It’s easy to think of sleep as a period where your body is taking a break from its normal functioning, however, your body is still hard at work when you’re sleeping. For example, rest is critical to muscle synthesis and hormone regulation.

Your brain, in particular, is active when you’re asleep. Throughout the day, this organ is responsible for 20% of your caloric intake. During sleep, your brain cycles through different stages, during one of which your brain is particularly active: REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It is during REM sleep that you dream, an action correlated with increased energy use.

How Many Calories Do You Burn Once You Fall Asleep?

Given that you do burn calories when you sleep, it’s only natural to wonder how many you burn. The exact number of calories that you burn during sleep varies based on factors like:

  • Your body weight: The more you weigh, the more calories you will burn.
  • Your age: Typically, you will burn fewer calories in your sleep as you move toward old age.
  • Genetics: Genetics influence how many calories a person burns when active and at rest.
  • The temperature inside the room: If it is hot or cold, your body will have to use calories to keep your body temperature where it ought to be.
  • Your daily activities: The more active you are during the day, the more calories you’ll burn during the night.

As an example, the average person weighing 160 pounds burns around 69 calories per hour when sleeping. Someone weighing 120 pounds will tend to burn fewer calories while sleeping, and someone who weighs 200 pounds will tend to burn more.

Can You Increase the Amount of Calories You Burn While Sleeping?

If you’re working on losing weight, you are likely to want to maximize your calorie-burning potential whenever possible. There are two tricks that you can employ to maximize the amount of calories that you burn in your sleep:

  1. Turn down the thermostat: Try to have your bedroom between 60 and 67 degrees when sleeping. This will not only maximize caloric expenditure as your body works to keep you warm, but it will also help encourage quality sleep.
  2. Lift weights: Doing physical activities during the day will boost your energy expenditure at night. To maximize this, do muscle building exercises like CrossFit or lifting weights.

Using Sleep to Burn More Calories

There is only so much you can do to burn more calories while you sleep, but interestingly, you can use sleep to manipulate how many calories you burn throughout the day. How? The answer is simple: get enough sleep at night.

When you are sleep deprived, your metabolism suffers. Simply not getting enough sleep can lead to weight gain thanks to how sleep effects ghrelin and leptin, your hormones responsible for hunger and satiety. To support weight loss and boost metabolism as well as the amount of calories burned during the day, try to clock at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

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