Alaska Sleep Education Center

How Your Body Use Calories While You Sleep

Posted by Jennifer Hines

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on Feb 27, 2020 7:20:00 AM

A woman sleeping in bed, her head resting on a pillow with her hands beside her head. And a quilt covering up to her shoulder.

Burning calories is a term most often associated with aerobic exercise and physically taxing jobs. But actually, you don’t need to be engaged in strenuous activity to burn calories. Your body uses them up around the clock, even when you are asleep. Learn more about the functions your body performs at night, and exactly how it uses calories while you sleep.

How REM Uses Energy

Despite the fact that you are resting, your body still consumes energy when you sleep. Energy use is particularly high during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. During this time, your brain is highly active and you burn the most glucose, your body’s source of fuel. Your heart rate and blood pressure also rise during this time, which burns more calories.

Other Calorie-Burning Activities During Sleep

During the night, your body goes to work repairing any damage done on a cellular level during your waking hours. For instance, if you exercise during the day, your muscles will recover and repair themselves at night, which requires energy. Food digestion also uses energy, as your body breaks down your meal into usable fuel for the following day.

How Many Calories Can You Burn?

The amount of energy you use during sleep depends on a number of factors, including your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which determines the amount of energy your body needs to maintain its most basic functions. This includes breathing, blood circulation, and keeping your organs running. 

How much you weigh plays a role in setting your BMR: The more pounds you are carrying, the more energy you use. Finally, the amount of sleep a person gets influences calories burned as well. For example, a healthy person who weighs 125 pounds burns approximately 38 calories per hour of sleep, so you can multiple that number by number of sleep hours to see approximately how many calories are being burned.

Building Muscle While

Building muscles while you sleep.During REM sleep, the muscles relax, which can help relieve tension and reduce symptoms of certain types of chronic pain. In fact, many of the critical restorative functions in the body—like tissue repair and muscle growth—occur mostly or only during sleep.

A consistent sleep schedule of seven to nine hours a night (possibly more if you are a competitive athlete) will help the muscle-healing process.

In addition to muscle strength, muscle coordination improves with sufficient sleep. Basketball players who added two hours of sleep to their nightly routine experienced a five percent increase in reaction time and speed on the court.

Sleep is vital for cementing muscle recall linked to body movements. Together with the muscle repair and growth that happens during sleep, this allows for overall improved athletic performance.

The exercise-sleep connection works both ways: Strength training itself can help you get a better night’s rest. Individuals who strength train may fall asleep faster, have better quality sleep, and wake up less frequently throughout the night. Don’t like to lift?

Try running, yoga, or aerobics instead. Any type of exercise is beneficial when it comes to sleeping more soundly although some exercises, like competitive sports, should be avoided within two hours of sleep.

The Right Amount of Sleep

Although too little sleep has been linked to weight gain, too much sleep can have a similar effect, as you are expending less energy overall during the course of the day. (You burn more calories when you are awake and moving around than when you are at rest.)

In addition to getting a healthy amount of sleep, you can increase the number of daily calories burned by incorporating exercise into your routine. Focusing on eating smaller meals and avoiding alcohol before bed can also help with your metabolism.

If you still find yourself having missing out on sleep even after practicing good sleep habits, you may want to talk to your doctor about your sleep problems and to schedule a consultation with a sleep specialist. 

At the Alaska Sleep Clinic we treat hundreds of patients throughout Alaska for various sleep disorders including: sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and more.  Click the link below to receive more information regarding scheduling a sleep study.

A big step towards better health, is getting better sleep. Call Alaska Sleep Clinic to speak with a board-certified sleep specialist and sign up for our daily sleep education blog.

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Topics: REM sleep, sleep habits, body

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