Have you ever wondered if your body’s doing more than just dreaming while asleep? Well, this topic piques the curiosity of many and has been a constant research topic in sleep therapy. As you nestle into bed, it might surprise you that your body starts a night-time calorie-burning routine.
To cut to the chase, the answer to how many calories you burn while sleeping is not as straightforward as a universal number. The calories you burn while sleeping vary from person to person.
On average, it’s estimated that you burn around 0.018 to 0.022 calories per stone of your body weight per hour while asleep. In clear terms, if you’re tipping the scales at 10 stone, your nightly calorie-burning escapade could range from 60 to 75 calories per hour.
So, let’s take a closer look.
The most straightforward way to estimate how many calories you burn while sleeping is to use the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
The Basal Metabolic Rate is the amount of energy your body needs to accomplish the most basic metabolic functions, like breathing, digestion, blood circulation, maintaining body temperature, and supporting the functioning of vital organs.
Generally, the higher your body mass, the more calories you’ll burn, and that’s why men tend to burn more calories at rest than women.
To calculate the BMR, you have to factor in the age, gender, weight, and height of an individual.
The formula for men and women differs slightly:
BMR for men: 66 + (6.2 × weight in pounds) + (12.7 × height in inches) − (6.75 × age in years)
BMR for women: 65.51 + (4.35 × weight in pounds) + (4.7 × height in inches) – (4.7 × age in years)
Here’s an example:
Imagine a man of 45 years, weighing 182 pounds and standing at 70.8 inches.
66 + (6.2 × 182) + (12.7 × 70.8) − (6.75 × 45) = 1795.01 Calories
A woman aged 40 weighs 154 pounds and has a height of 63.6 inches.
65.51 + (4.35 × 154) + (4.7 × 63.6) – (4.7 × 40) = 847.93 Calories
Many factors influence how much calories you burn while sleeping, and understanding these factors provides a peek into your sleep metabolism. Let’s take a look at some of them, shall we?
The composition of your body, specifically the ratio of muscle to fat, plays a star role in your sleeping calorie burn. Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat, meaning the more muscle you have, the higher the number of calories you will burn.
If you are a fitness enthusiast or an athlete, you understand the benefits of knowing how your body composition affects different aspects of your fitness journey. So, it is a no-brainer that it is a leading factor in determining how many calories you burn while sleeping.
Age is more than just a number when it comes to metabolism. As you get older, your BMR tends to decrease. This can affect the calories burned during sleep, making it a bit of a moving target as the years go by. In lay terms, as you age, the number of calories you burn while sleeping reduces.
Men and women differ biologically, and this affects calories burned. Men generally have a higher muscle mass and lower body fat percentage than women, influencing their overall metabolic rate. Consequently, men may have a slightly higher calorie burn during sleep.
The quality of your sleep, including beneficial stages like light sleep, matters more than you might think. You can burn more calories depending on your sleep stage. However, disrupted or insufficient sleep can disrupt your hormonal balance, impacting your metabolism. This potentially reduces the calories burned while sleeping. So, to increase your calories burnt while sleeping, you must get good quality sleep daily.
Some people naturally have a faster metabolism, which means they burn more calories even when catching some shut-eye. However, this doesn’t mean that those with slower metabolism don’t burn any calories while sleeping.
Now that we understand you can burn calories while sleeping, let’s debunk some common misunderstandings surrounding this topic.
Myth: You Burn More Calories Sleeping Than Watching TV
Fact: While the idea of burning calories effortlessly in dreamland is appealing, the reality is that the rate of calorie burn during sleep is very modest. It’s not a substitute for hitting the gym or even the mild exertion of reaching for the TV remote.
Myth: Eating Before Bed Boosts Caloric Burn
Fact: Consuming a feast before bedtime doesn’t turbocharge your nocturnal calorie burn. Instead, a large meal close to bedtime may disrupt your sleep quality and have the opposite effect on your metabolism.
Myth: Sleep-Induced Calorie Burn Can Substitute Exercise
Fact: Your nightly calorie burn, though essential, is no substitute for a good workout. Regular physical activity remains the key player in managing weight and overall well-being.
Burning calories while asleep may not involve the physical exertion of a workout, but there are strategies to enhance your metabolic activity during the night. While you can’t control your age or alter your genetic makeup, lifestyle choices promoting muscle health, good sleep hygiene, and overall well-being can positively influence your nightly calorie burn. Let’s discuss some of these strategies in detail.
As stated earlier, quality sleep is essential to lead a healthy lifestyle. You should aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. If you find it hard to get a good night’s rest, you can improve the quality of your sleep by creating a conducive sleep environment – by keeping the room dark, quiet, and cool. Also, maintain a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at a similar time each day. This helps optimise metabolic processes during sleep.
Invest in the quality of your sleep environment to help you sleep better and potentially burn more when sleeping. A comfortable mattress and pillows that support proper sleep posture can be helpful to improve sleep quality.
Maintaining a balanced diet with meals focusing on lean protein in the evening can help metabolism at night. Digesting protein requires metabolic energy and can help preserve muscle mass, a primary contributor to a higher metabolic rate. Consequently, dehydration can hinder your metabolism. Drink at least 4 litres of water daily to stay adequately hydrated, but limit fluid intake close to bedtime to avoid sleep disruptions from bathroom visits.
Dieticians and nutritionists may recommend a balanced snack before bedtime but frown upon heavy or high-sugar snacks. Excess sugar from snacks close to bedtime can lead to energy fluctuations and potentially disrupt sleep. To balance this out, try foods that increase calorie burn, such as green tea before bedtime.
No research shows that the calories burnt while sleeping replace regular exercises and strength training. So, you need to exercise regularly. This is because exercise can boost your health, improving your metabolic rate. Regular strength training exercises, even during waking hours, can build and maintain muscle mass, allowing you to burn more calories during the day and asleep.
Chronic stress has a direct impact on both sleep quality and metabolism. Manage your daily stress level and practice stress-reduction techniques like deep breathing or meditation. This helps you to manage your stress throughout the day and sets you in the right mood to create a more relaxed environment for optimal sleep and metabolic function.
You should reduce stimulants like caffeine and nicotine as the hours draw closer to bedtime. Also, be cautious of the supplements you consume, as they can also cause hormonal imbalances that can interfere with both sleep quality and metabolic function.
The relationship between nocturnal metabolism and our well-being is fascinating and complex. Even though the number of calories burned during sleep cannot rival an intense workout, it plays a role in the intricate system of our daily energy expenditure.
While you try to optimise your night-time metabolism, remember that quality sleep, balanced nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle are the vital pillars of well-being. Also, there are no quick fixes to enhanced metabolic function, but rather a holistic approach that encompasses every waking and sleeping moment is a great place to start.
So, as you go to bed tonight, know that your body is quietly at work to restore balanced energy expenditure and contribute to a healthier and more vibrant lifestyle for you.