Ever since we were little, we’ve been told that going early to bed will help us grow tall and strong. Years later, when we’ve finally grown tall and strong, we can’t help but wonder whether sleep is responsible for our growth, or were we just tricked into going to bed on time.
Well, truth to be told, how we grow depends on numerous factors, from genetics to nutrition.
Most importantly, there needs to be enough of hormone production that is probably alone mostly responsible for our growth.
But, how does sleep fit into this whole story? In the following paragraphs, we’re going to take a look at sleep and whether it plays any role in our growth. So, let’s get started!
How Sleep Affects Growth?
One of the most important factors for our growth in sleep is the human growth hormone or HGH. This hormone is produced in the pituitary glands in the brain as we sleep. There, the hormone is released into the bloodstream and reaches its peak during deep sleep.
During puberty, the growth hormone is responsible for the overall growth of the body, including the bones, muscles, metabolism, physical performance, etc. After puberty, the hormone declines in levels and production and usually has less effect in older age.
It is important to emphasize that growth hormone only enables growth when other factors for growth are available to the body.
For example, there needs to be enough sleep, good nutrition, regular physical activity, etc.
Moreover, the hormone has an effect only when the growth plates are open. These plates are the area of growing tissues that are located at the ends of long bones. The growth plates close usually during adolescence or the age between 18 and 27. Then, these plates turn into solid bones.
Adequate sleep and stable circadian rhythm are essential for many biological processes and systems. Studies show that bones do most of their growing during the night, and most of the bone mass is formed during our sleep. Bone formation and remodeling occurs throughout life and largely depends on our immune system, hormone production, age, medication intake, diseases, etc.
Lack of sleep can impair the immune system as well as the chemical process that occurs during the bones formation. This chemical process makes the bones dense and strong, so sleep deprivation can impair the whole bone formation process. Lack of sleep is directly associated with low bone density, weaker and fragile bones, increased risk of bone fracture, inability for the bones to regrow or remodel, etc.
Moreover, sleep deprivation is also associated with lower melatonin levels. Melatonin is essential for bone formation and bone density. It is also believed that lack of melatonin and eventually sleep deprivation contributes to the development of osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women. Also, people who work night shifts regularly have a lower bone density as well as disrupted bone formation and remodeling.
Another way sleep affects our growth and height is through the intervertebral disc. This disc-like material can be found between each spinal joint, and usually acts as a padding or shock absorber.
Without this disc-like material, our spine wouldn’t be able to move.
However, throughout the day, the intervertebral disc is squished between the spinal joints, which results in us being somewhat shorter than we usually are.
But, during sleep, the disc manages to get to its full size and recover; this means that during sleep we return to our true height, and we become a bit taller as we sleep.
Does Sleep Help You Grow Taller?
As mentioned before, sleep plays a rather important role when it comes to physical development. That can be proven by seeing what happens to our body and its growth when we’re sleep-deprived.
For example, sleep deprivation is closely related to vitamin deficiency, especially when it comes to vitamin D concentrations. During sleep, our body absorbs vitamins and transfers them where they’re needed. Vitamin D, for example, is crucial for bone mineral density and growth. But, when there isn’t enough sleep, vitamin D cannot be absorbed, hence the lack of bone density and growth.
Furthermore, it is believed that people who are sleep-deprived experience a reduction in bone mineral density. Adults or children who sleep up to 6 hours every night have less regional bone mass, compared to those who get enough sleep, up to 8 hours. Not to mention the fact that sleep deprivation results in less growth hormone, especially during early and middle adulthood.
So, yes, sleep enables us to grow, not only taller but grow in general. It helps our bones and muscles to form, model, or remodel in cases of injuries and degenerative conditions. Sleep ensures that the body is fully relaxed and immobile for several hours, during which bones, muscles, and our body, in general, can grow undisturbed.
What Else Helps Us Grow (Taller)?
Physical activity, such as playing sports or exercising, can help you grow (taller) alongside sleep. Even though there isn’t a scientific proof for this, it is still believed that all the stretching we do while being active helps promote growth and strengthening of the bones and muscles.
It is also believed that weight training and HIIT training especially help with muscle building as well as with the growth hormone (exercising encourages better sleep as well as regular production of this the HGH).
Even though growth and height still largely remain a genetics thing, proper nutrition is undoubtedly one of the most important factors of growth. Sometimes proper food can help you grow, while other times it can help you maintain your height, as well as bone and muscle strength. Therefore, it is essential to eat foods that contain calcium, magnesium, vitamin D as well as other vitamins to help your body grow and maintain its skeletal structure throughout your life. Food that can help you achieve all of that includes;
- Beans – a great source of protein, iron, fiber, magnesium, zinc, copper, and B vitamins. Beans help increase insulin-like growth factor, which is essential for growth regulation.
- Leafy greens – a great source of iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, and much more. Leafy greens contribute to proper bone mass and reduce the risk of losing bone mass and density throughout life.
- Lean meat – a great source of vitamin B12 (a vitamin that is crucial for growing taller and maintaining height), taurine (regulates bone formation and growth), niacin, selenium, phosphorus, and vitamin B6. All of the nutrients in lean meat, like chicken, for example, contribute to growth and height maintenance.
- Eggs – a great source of Vitamin D, which is directly associated with growth and height maintaining. Regular egg intake can promote growth, especially in adolescents. In older people, eggs can promote bone and muscle strength and mass.
- Salmon – a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, selenium, B vitamins, and potassium. The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon are crucial to growth, as well as bone and muscle development.
Getting Enough Sleep
As mentioned before, getting enough sleep is crucial for growth and development. Regardless of whether it is for a child or an adult, the advice for sleep shouldn’t be overlooked.
Children should sleep up to 11 hours every day, and adults up to 8.
During sleep, children will ensure proper growth and development of their bones and muscles, while adults will ensure proper modeling/remodeling of their bones, as well as maintain their height.
Sleep in general affects the immune system and metabolism, which are directly connected to growth. So, make sure to establish a sleep routine and, of course, try to eat properly and stay active (all of this should help you get a quality sleep every night).
Now, to refer to the beginning of the article, where we mentioned having to go to bed early when we were kids. Well, your mothers and fathers were right; deep sleep in children releases more growth hormone, which fuels and boosts muscle and bone development, resulting in children growing tall and healthy.
How To Promote Growth Hormone?
- Exercise – exercise promotes the production and release of the growth hormone into the bloodstream during the day. During the night, it will help you get quality sleep. The combo of sleep and exercise will help you grow and develop bone and muscle mass. Not to mention that exercise will strengthen your back muscles, which will ensure proper spine position as well as proper posture (which will make you appear taller).
- High-intensity interval training – HIIT is known to boost secretion or production of hormones in the body. It is believed that it also helps the body produce growth hormone. Alongside HIIT, it is recommended to do weight training as well, to get the ultimate growth and development effect.
- Avoiding junk food and sugar – junk food and sugar can directly prevent growth hormone production. The more of such foods one consumes, the higher the insulin levels they have. Because of high insulin levels, the levels of the growth hormone decline, resulting in poor bone and muscle development.
- Vitamin supplements – sometimes it is not possible for us to take in as many vitamins as we need daily. For growth, vitamin D, magnesium, B vitamins, zinc, copper, calcium, and the hormone melatonin can be hard to take in just through food. So, for better growth and development consider supplements, which can be rather useful, but shouldn’t be overdone or act as a replacement to natural vitamin intake.
What About Synthetic Human Growth Hormones?
Sometimes children and teenagers experience growth hormone deficiency. Usually, such deficiency is caused by an underlying disease (most often chronic kidney disease). In such cases, growth hormone injection treatment is prescribed.
However, synthetic human growth hormones can be rather dangerous, especially if obtained without a prescription.
If you’re interested in this treatment make sure to discuss with your doctor or medical professional (specialists who are familiar with your health situation and underlying conditions).