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The human body is a marvel of biology, constantly at work to keep us alive and functioning. Even when we are at rest, our bodies continue to expend energy to maintain essential functions such as breathing, circulating blood, and repairing tissues. However, the energy expenditure when we are awake differs significantly from when we are sleeping. In this article, we will explore how much energy the body uses when awake versus sleeping and the factors that influence these energy expenditures.

Awake: The Active State

When we are awake, our bodies are in an active state, performing various physical and mental tasks throughout the day. The energy expended during wakefulness can be divided into two categories: basal metabolic rate (BMR) and activity-related energy expenditure.

  1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):

Basal metabolic rate (BMR) represents the energy your body needs to perform its most basic functions while at rest. These functions include maintaining body temperature, supporting organ function, and repairing tissues. BMR typically accounts for about 60-70% of an individual’s total daily energy expenditure.

Several factors influence BMR, including age, gender, body composition, and genetics. Generally, younger people tend to have a higher BMR than older individuals, and men often have a higher BMR than women due to differences in muscle mass. Lean muscle tissue requires more energy to maintain than fat, so individuals with more muscle mass tend to have a higher BMR.

  1. Activity-Related Energy Expenditure:

Apart from BMR, the energy expended while awake is also influenced by physical activity and mental tasks. Whether it’s walking, working, or exercising, these activities require additional energy expenditure. The more active a person is during their waking hours, the more energy they will use.

Sleeping: The Restorative State

When we sleep, our bodies are in a state of rest and recovery. Energy expenditure during sleep is primarily attributed to the body’s maintenance and repair processes, but it is significantly lower than when we are awake.

  1. Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR):

Resting metabolic rate (RMR) is similar to BMR but refers specifically to the energy expenditure during sleep. RMR accounts for a smaller percentage of total daily energy expenditure than BMR, typically around 5-10%. During sleep, the body continues to perform essential functions like maintaining core temperature, repairing tissues, and supporting vital organ functions, all of which require energy.

  1. Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) vs. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep:

It’s worth noting that energy expenditure can vary during different sleep cycles. During NREM sleep, the body’s energy expenditure is lower, and heart rate and respiration rate decrease. In contrast, REM sleep, which is associated with vivid dreaming, increased brain activity, and rapid eye movements, can have energy expenditure levels closer to those of wakefulness.

Factors Influencing Energy Expenditure During Sleep:

Several factors can influence how much energy the body uses during sleep, including:

  • Sleep duration: Longer periods of sleep generally result in higher energy expenditure during sleep.
  • Sleep quality: Restorative deep sleep phases may have a higher energy expenditure than disrupted or shallow sleep.
  • Age: Children and teenagers often have higher energy expenditure during sleep due to growth and development.
  • Health conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as sleep apnea or fever, can increase energy expenditure during sleep.


In summary, the human body expends energy both when awake and asleep, with awake states requiring significantly more energy due to the various physical and mental activities we engage in. While sleep is a restorative state essential for overall health and well-being, it is important to remember that the majority of our daily energy expenditure occurs when we are awake. Proper sleep and an active lifestyle can help maintain a healthy balance between energy expenditure and energy intake, contributing to overall wellness.


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