Calories! Many of us have a kind of love/hate relationship with them. We love that it’s become so easy to calculate what we’re eating and hate that our food contains so many of them. We love that we can work out exactly how much we need to eat to lose weight, but hate that we often have to forgo our favorite meals!
Either way, they’re part of life. When we think of burning calories, most people imagine something like this:
Gym, cardio, exercise, garden work… This is definitely how we burn most of our calories, but did you know that you also burn calories doing this?
Yes! Sleeping burns calories, you’ll be happy to know. But how many calories do you burn sleeping? That’s what we’re answering today.
Stick with us to find out how to use your sleep to help reach your fitness or weight loss goals!
How Do You Burn Calories While Sleeping?
You may be surprised to learn that it’s not only exercise that burns calories. Things like breathing, digestion, tossing and turning, and even memory consolidation burn calories while you’re asleep!
Your body doesn’t shut down while you’re asleep. The mind and consciousness take a break, but although the muscles are paralyzed the body is very busy:
- Pumping blood to your organs
- Keeping your breathing going
- Digesting whatever you ate during the day
- Absorbing nutrients and sending them around the body
- Healing the body’s aches and pains
- Sorting through and storing your memories
- Producing important hormones
Every process the body goes through runs off of calories. You eat, your body burns it as fuel for everything it does.
How Many Calories Do You Burn Sleeping?
Ah, the all-important question! Well, the answer is - it depends. On you, your metabolism, your habits, and the quality of your sleep.
Metabolism is the most important part of this calorie-burning process. This is the actual process of your body converting food to energy. If your metabolism is sluggish, you’ll most likely burn less calories. If it’s speedy, you may burn more.
We will go into more detail about calculating your own numbers further down, but it’s worth keeping in mind that age and gender can influence your calorie-burning. Here are some average BMRs:
- Female, 30y/o, 5.2 ft, 110 lbs: 1284 (53.5 per hour)
- Male, 30 y/o, 5.10 ft 140 lbs: 1624 (67.7 per hour)
- Female, 40y/o, 5.5 ft, 140 lbs: 1382 (57.5 per hour)
- Male, 40y/o, 6 ft, 160 lbs: 1706 (71 per hour)
- Female, 50y/o, 5.5 ft 140 lbs: 1335 (55.6 per hour)
- Male, 50y/o, 6 ft, 160 lbs: 1638 (68.25 per hour)
These are general averages. Things like fitness level, muscle mass, and daily activity can influence the end result quite a bit.
How To Calculate How Many Calories You Burn Sleeping
So, how do we crunch the numbers so we can begin to use this sleepercise to our advantage? We need to do a bit of math work to get it right, but it’s not hard.
First, we need to work out our BMR (basal metabolic rate), which is the amount of calories we burn every day just by being. We could explain that in detail, but it’s much easier to just hop over to this calculator and work it out!
Once you’ve done that, divide your answer by 24 to get how many calories you burn per hour of the day. To be more accurate, multiply that by 0.95 - as your body functions at about 95% while you’re asleep.
- My BMR comes back as 1292.
- Dividing that by 24 means I burn 53.8 calories per hour.
- Multiplying that by 0.95 means I burn 51 calories per hour during sleep!
If I get a full 8 hours, I’ll be burning 408 calories during the night.
Calculate your own now!
Ways To Burn More Calories While Sleeping
Although this method definitely shouldn't be used on its own as a weight loss strategy, it’s quite worthwhile paying some attention to how you can burn more calories during sleep.
We all have to sleep, so getting rid of a little extra fat while we do so (even if it’s a tiny amount!) is worth trying!
Here are some quick and easy ways to increase that BMR while you’re asleep.
Get Better Sleep
The root of all problems is bad sleep! (not technically, but if you think about it…)
Not only does bad sleep contribute to midnight or during-the-day snacking as a means of increasing energy levels, it also puts strain on your body so it doesn’t function optimally.
A bad night’s rest means your healing processes are interrupted, your body is lacking the necessary energy, and you’re less inclined to make healthy choices.
All of these things will have detrimental effects on your calorie burning, both overnight and during the day.
To get better rest:
- Set a nightly routine.
- Choose the right pillow.
- Wear a sleep mask to block out light.
- Create a quiet atmosphere.
- Avoid eating a heavy meal before bed.
- Don’t drink for at least an hour before sleeping.
Lower the Temperature
Research has shown that sleeping in a room with a lower temperature helps the body produce more “thinning fats” and store more brown and beige fats. This sounds kind of weird and complicated, but all it really means is that your body burns more calories in colder temperatures.
As it gets darker, our bodies start reducing our core temperature. This sends a signal to the brain to begin releasing melatonin and growth hormone, which will kickstart the sleep process.
So we’re already getting into the calorie-burning state as night approaches. When you add the lower temperature (using a thermostat or fan, your body will have to work while you sleep to generate more body heat to keep you warm.
We don’t mean you should turn your thermostat down to freezing temperatures! That’s not fun for anyone. But setting it to the 60-degree range (around 15 degrees C) will get your body working and help you burn more calories.
Watch Your Diet
Contrary to popular belief, eating after 9pm in the evening doesn’t mean that you’ll gain weight. It is however, all about what you eat that can add the extra layer of padding. We all enjoy snacking while we’re watching our TV show before bed time!
Being more conscious about the type of snack we’re nibbling at can make a bigger difference than you realize to fat-burning activity in the night.
Whatever you’ve eaten, your body will still have to work on digesting it. This could increase your metabolic rate, which is also known as thermogenesis (creating heat by the body’s processes).
Incorporate healthy snacks such as almonds, figs or pistachios. These will help you get a better night’s sleep and are also a great treat!
Exercise burns calories - we all know this! Just like the diet, it’s about what you do and when you do it that makes the most difference.
Cardio is great exercise, but strength training is what really works. It burns a large amount of calories while doing it, but the burn continues for hours once you’ve stopped.
Exercising later in the day could increase your sleeping calorie burn, but even if you workout in the morning it will have a positive effect.
Your body continues to work when you’re sleeping, and part of what it does is muscle recovery. If you’ve worked out, your body will expend more calories on recovery, along with any other healing and body processes it needs to do.
We’re not saying that you’re going to burn double the amount of calories just because you exercised! But you’re making your body work harder, which requires more energy, so you will burn slightly more than if you haven't exercised at all.
Does Eating Late at Night Slow Down Your Metabolism?
You’ll be happy to know that eating at night doesn’t slow down your metabolism.
We’re starting to understand that we gain weight when we eat more than the energy that our body expends. This is also known as the theory of “calorie in, calorie out”.
If you’re not exercising or eating healthy and you’re snacking between meals, this would likely push you over your daily calorie limit. This is what would lead to weight gain.
It’s what you’re eating, not when you’re eating it that counts.
Do You Burn More Calories If You Have More Muscle?
You do burn more calories if you have more muscle, as muscle is more metabolically active than other tissue. The more muscle you have, the more energy your body has to use, even if you’re just sitting on a couch.
One of the best ways to burn more calories is to build muscle. Your body has to work at growing and developing the muscle, through a process called protein synthesis.
But you don’t have to focus on gaining muscle by weight training or heavy exercise. Any form of exercise will help you burn calories, and the intensity of the workout will determine how many you burn.
It does help to work the larger groups of muscles in the body by adding strength training into your routine so that you can burn more calories while at rest.
Does Caffeine Increase Metabolism?
Caffeine does increase the metabolism, but there are still ongoing studies of the effects that caffeine really has on metabolism. It may suppress your appetite for some time, and it also appears to speed up your metabolic rate even when you’re at rest.
This is because caffeine stimulates thermogenesis in the body, as we’ve spoken about before. This is how our bodies digest food, as well as generate heat. This increases the amount of energy that your body uses while it’s at rest.
Despite the fact that most of us drink copious amounts of coffee, it doesn’t make a huge difference to our nightly calorie-burning. It’s far better for stimulating digestion!
Also, you shouldn’t be drinking coffee too late in the day - it’s best to stop four hours or so before going to sleep.
So, how many calories do you burn sleeping? Have you crunched your numbers? If not, go back and do it now!
Before we end off, just a word of caution - don’t think that you can get an extra 4-hour nap in during the day to burn 200 calories and neglect your exercise!
That’s not quite how it works. It’s useful to know how many calories your body uses when you’re asleep, and you can use that knowledge to improve your own health and fitness.
But it’s not a shortcut! It’s a super tool to be used in conjunction with a health diet, exercise, and a proper sleep routine.
Happy sleeping (and calorie burning!).