How Many Calories Do You Burn While Sleeping?

Written by Rebecca Levi

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Breus

Our Editorial Process
Updated Regularly

Even while we sleep, our bodies expend energy and burn calories. A 155-pound person burns about 44 calories an hour while they sleep. People who weigh more may burn a few additional calories, while people who weigh less burn slightly fewer.

Numerous factors affect the number of calories you burn during sleep. Your eating habits, activity level, and any medical conditions you may have all contribute to your total weight and how much energy you expend performing different activities.

Whether you want to learn how your body works or are trying to maintain or lose weight, understanding the relationship between sleep and metabolism can help you reach your goals.

What Factors Affect How Many Calories You Burn?

A host of factors impact the number of calories you burn while sleeping or performing other activities. The processes in which the body turns calories from food into energy are collectively known as metabolism.

How many calories you burn during sleep depends on your individual basal metabolic rate (BMR). The BMR represents how much energy a living thing needs to grow, develop, and remain healthy. Experts believe that a person’s BMR decreases by around 15% during sleep.

Many variables affect your BMR including:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Physical activity level
  • Dietary choices
  • Diseases, including cancer 
  • Genetics

Calories and Sleep Stages

Sleep is divided into four stages: one stage called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and three stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Most people cycle through all four stages of sleep multiple times a night.

How many calories you burn during each sleep stage depends on how much energy is required by your brain activity and physical processes. For example, during deep sleep, your blood pressure drops and your heart rate slows down, so fewer calories are burned during this stage.

In contrast, during REM sleep, your breathing rate increases and your eyes move quickly. Electrical waves in the brain are similar to those of a person who is awake. So, your body must burn more calories to fuel this activity.

Can Your Sleep Habits Help You Lose Weight?

Experts agree that sleep is important to support a person’s mental and physical health. However, there is no evidence that getting enough quality sleep can help a person lose weight.

To lose weight, an individual must burn more calories than they consume in a 24-hour period. Because people burn additional calories while awake, some people may be tempted to cut back on sleep.

However, research shows an association between insufficient sleep and obesity across age groups. And people who get less sleep are not as physically active and burn fewer calories during the day.

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Sleep deprivation also changes the brain and body in ways that affect metabolism. When a person does not get enough sleep, their body releases more of a hormone called ghrelin. Ghrelin increases appetite and triggers cravings for high-calorie foods. Insufficient sleep also results in lower levels of leptin, a hormone in charge of appetite control.

Experts suggest that sleep-related changes in leptin and ghrelin levels may affect how the body produces insulin. This might be why sleep deprived individuals may have a greater chance of gaining weight and developing diabetes.

If you are wondering about the role your sleep habits play in your overall health, including your metabolism, talk with your health care provider. They can review your health and family history and offer guidance on sleep hygiene and making healthy lifestyle choices.

The Impact of Diet and Exercise

Regular exercise and healthy eating can improve sleep and may help some people lose weight. However, there is no diet or exercise routine shown to increase the number of calories a person burns during sleep.

Regular physical activity is crucial to overall calorie burn and maintaining good health. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous exercise a day, at least five days a week. Exercise can help people fall asleep more easily at night though it is best to avoid working out in the few hours leading up to sleep.

A healthy, portion controlled diet can give the body the necessary nutrients and energy needed to function throughout the day and sleep well at night. Foods and beverages known to boost a person’s metabolism do not lead to weight loss and may interfere with sleep. Likewise, changes to eating routine, such as eating frequent small meals throughout the day, are unlikely to affect your BMR.

A doctor or nutritionist is in the best position to address questions about how diet and exercise routine relate to weight in your specific situation.


About The Author

Rebecca Levi

Staff Writer, Sleep Health

With a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Indiana University Bloomington, Rebecca enjoys making accurate, up-to-date health information accessible to all readers. As a freelance writer and editor, she has covered everything from healthcare and experimental music to education. Rebecca lives in Tennessee, where she spends her free time reading, writing fiction, and making music.

  • Position: Side sleeper
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