How Does Your Body Use Calories During Sleep?

December 1, 2023
Woman sleeping peacefully in white bed linens

When most people think about burning calories, they think about exercise. If you are walking, running, playing sports, or strength training, your body needs extra energy to accomplish the task at hand. However, your body is constantly using up calories — even when you are asleep. How does it use that energy, and is there any way to increase both the quality of your sleep the number of calories you burn during your shuteye? This blog post explains.

Your Basal Metabolic Rate and Sleep

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the minimum number of calories that your body needs to carry out essential functions, such as breathing, circulation, cellular growth and repair, and temperature regulation.  In other words, it is the energy you use when your body is at rest, including when you are sleeping.

The average BMR is around 50 calories per hour, though this can fluctuate greatly from person to person. (There are a number of online calculators that you can use to get an estimate of your personal BMR.) Your brain probably consumes about 20% of those calories in the form of glucose.

While you are asleep, your BMR holds true. However, you may not burn exactly the same number of calories during every stage of sleep. Research suggests that the most energy is used during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, while the least energy is required during stage three (also called deep sleep).

Can You Increase Your BMR?

There are a number of factors that influence BMR. Some of them are not modifiable, such as your race, age, and biological sex. However, some of them are within your power to change. If you would like to burn more calories while you sleep, you should:

  • Exercise regularly. Active people tend to burn more calories, even while at rest, than sedentary individuals. In part, this is due to the fact that regular exercisers tend to have greater muscle mass, and muscles burn significantly more calories than fat.
  • Get high-quality sleep. Poor sleep can have negative consequences for your metabolism. If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, you should seek appropriate treatment.
  • Eat a balanced diet. A balanced diet can help to manage your body composition. Not only should you avoid overindulging in food, but you should also avoid undereating. Crash diets are known to slow down human metabolism.

Your body is always working! Sticking to good habits could increase your BMR and help you enjoy improved overall wellness.

Meet the Practice

Florida Dental Sleep Disorders aims to help patients find freedom from obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that can interfere with sleep quality and have negative consequences for metabolism and sleep management. Dr. Kenneth Mogell, who is double board-certified in dental sleep medicine, leads our team. If you are curious about whether we may be able to help you enjoy better rest, contact any of our locations or call our Boca Raton office at 561-353-5252.