Does Sleeping Make You Taller? (Time To Wake Up!)
Sleep is as essential for life as breathing; the truth is that not a person on the planet can survive for prolonged periods without sleep. As we sleep, the body and mind use the time to replenish and repair, releasing hormones that maintain growth and digestion and generally promote good health.
Before we look at sleep and its relationship to growth and height, it is important that we learn a little about sleep itself, what it is, how it works, and its effect on our minds and bodies. Read on for a basic understanding of the secrets of sleep, and then as we answer the question 'does sleeping make you taller?'.
Before we have finished growing sleep plays a vital role in producing growth hormone and helping us to get taller. After we have finished growing sleep will not help our bones to grow longer, but the hormones produced through the sleep cycle can continue to help maintain bone mass in adulthood, essential to maintain peak height.
What Is Sleep All About?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, sleep is ‘A condition of body and mind that typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended.’ (1).
Most of us have at some time or other suffered from sleep deprivation and know only too well the resulting feeling of fatigue and lack of energy, both physical and mental.
The American National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH) states ‘research shows that a chronic lack of sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, increases the risk of disorders including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity’ (2).
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
Although we know that sleep is essential, there is no set number of hours for the amount of sleep we need as individuals. However, as a general rule, as we grow up from infancy, the less sleep we require.
So from babies needing 17-19 hours, we move on to 9 hours for teenagers and finally adults, who sleep for an average of 7-9 hours. There are exceptions of course, we’ve all heard of someone who seems to survive very well on 4 hours or so (former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is one), whereas at the opposite extreme the artist Mariah Carey claims to need 15 hours.
As they get older, some people tend to sleep fewer hours, this can occasionally be due to factors such as insomnia, or perhaps medical problems, which in some cases rely on medication that can sometimes affect sleep patterns.
Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or insomnia are fairly common.
If you suspect you are suffering from a sleep problem you should speak to your doctor, who will be able to offer support such as lifestyle changes or other strategies.
Understanding Sleep Cycles
Our sleep cycles are categorized by two main types. The first is called non-rapid eye movement (NREM). The second is named rapid eye movement (REM).
NREM sleep follows a four stage pattern:
1: Falling asleep
2: A drop in body temperature with heart rate and breathing adopting a natural rhythm, and finally
3: Falling into a deep sleep
4: Blood pressure and breathing slow down and muscles become relaxed
These last two stages of NREM are when the body replenishes and repairs itself, also growth and other hormones are released. The entire NREM stage generally takes up around 75% of our sleep cycle.
The remaining 25% of the sleep cycle is the REM stage. It usually occurs around 90 minutes after we fall asleep and every 90 minutes after that. This is the stage where eye movement is more rapid, the brain is active and your body is relaxed, stimulating the body and brain, enabling you to feel focused, alert and active the following day.
Dreaming can occur in all stages of sleep, but dreams are most vivid during the REM period. Interestingly, some people dream in black and white, some in color, although there is no particular reason for this.
The circadian rhythm is linked to our 24-hour body clock and helps to regulate sleep and wakefulness. It is influenced by our environment and lifestyle, including outside elements such as light and dark. The brain receives signals based on these factors, activating certain hormones and regulating metabolism as to whether to keep us alert or send us to sleep.
It is believed that so-called ‘blue light’ affects our circadian rhythm; this light emanates from devices like televisions or computers and the general advice is to refrain from looking at these types of equipment an hour or two before bedtime.
The circadian rhythm can be disrupted due to external factors like shift working or sleep disorders.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
We know that sleep is vital for body replenishment and repairing muscle tissue and importantly, releasing growth hormones (HGH), the process that takes place when deep sleep occurs during stages 3 & 4 of the NREM cycle.
The name HGH implies that this sleep-releasing hormone can make you taller, so let’s investigate further.
What Is HGH
HGH is a protein produced by the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain and is part of the endocrine system. HGH stimulates the growth of body tissue, including bone, and is generally secreted during sleep and exercise, being released by the brain into the bloodstream.
What Does It Do?
This hormone plays a vital role in children, promoting growth and development and its levels rise progressively during childhood, peaking during the growth spurt in puberty. HGH certainly plays a part in growth until the body has reached its optimum height; secretion peaks at puberty, then slows down until we stop growing, as a general rule this is around 18-20 years of age (when growth plates are fused).
After this, HGH will not contribute to height gain, but is still produced, playing an important part in helping maintain a healthy body, including boosting metabolism, increasing muscle strength and
building up bone mass, an important factor in maintaining strong bone density. This helps the spine to retain a good posture, thus staving off osteoporosis and reducing the risk of height loss.
Although HGH is a naturally occurring hormone, there are synthetic versions used by doctors as a treatment or supplement.
In specific cases doctors may use HGH to treat those with a growth hormone deficiency due to medical causes, for example, dwarfism, and also to improve bone density, build muscle mass, reduce body fat, or increase exercise capacity.
Some people take it in conjunction with anabolic steroids to enhance their athletic ability. As with any drug, there are side effects, and if you are considering embarking on a course of HGH, always discuss your reasons with your doctor first. It is available on prescription only and you should never buy it elsewhere as it could well be a different drug and possibly a dangerous or illegal substance.
Do Sleeping Positions Affect Height?
We all have our favorite sleeping position and tend to stay with the same one throughout our lives. But is there a best sleeping position to grow height?
The answer is ‘no’, because regardless of whatever one we choose, whilst sleeping there will be a slight increase in height anyway, due to the release of our body weight on the spine. Therefore, when we first get up we are a little taller; however, gravity and pressure on the spine take over and will naturally decrease your morning height by the end of the day.
Does Sleeping Late Affect Growth?
Possibly. Good quality sleep enables the body to do its job, replenish and repair. Try and stick to your circadian rhythm, your 24-hour body clock.
Long-term poor or inadequate sleep could limit the release of Human Growth Hormone, which boosts growth until we reach our optimum height, after which it plays an important part in maintaining good bone density.
What About Napping?
Napping won't make you taller. Short naps generally fall into the first two stages of sleep (NREM) and not the deep sleep stage, the part when essential hormones that help to build strong bone mass are released.
Also, longer naps may interfere with your normal sleep patterns, so a short nap is probably advisable.
Can a Support Mattress Help You Gain Height?
There is no evidence to support this. A support mattress may be helpful if you have joint problems and need one for comfort. It could also help with your overall posture and your standing height.
But we all gain a little height during sleep, whatever mattress we use, due to the lessening of pressure on the spine. When we are up and about, gravity takes over and the slight height gain is lost.
So, does sleeping make you taller? In formative years, sleep contributes to us attaining our optimum height and it is also crucial for the healthy development of mind and body. Sleep will not help us grow taller after we have stopped growing, but hormones produced during sleep continue to help maintain bone mass in adulthood, thus are an important factor in retaining height.
Sleep plays a vital role in our quality of life and determines how well we feel and function. Most people spend around a third of their lives sleeping, and the importance of good quality sleep and the hidden benefits should never be underestimated.