Can Low Sleep Stunt Growth: Does Sleep Affect Height?


Height is almost never a bad thing to have on your side.

With society rewarding height in so many ways – from dating to job promotions – there’s no wonder we’d all like to be an extra few inches taller.

Unfortunately, height is also something decided primarily by our genetics. But does sleep affect our growth, and if so, can a lack of sleep stunt growth?

I was curious about this, so I dove into the research.

Here’s what I found:

Lack of sleep can have a slight influence on growth. This is because growth hormone is released during sleep, and so a chronic lack of sleep could stunt growth. While studies (referenced below) show some correlation between disturbed sleep and stunted growth, it is a weak signal.

Want to learn more? Then let’s dive in.

Can Lack of Sleep Stunt Growth? The Science

We can all tell anecdotes until the sun comes home, but at the end of the day we need evidence-based fact to draw any real conclusions.

In my research I found two studies which looked at the effect of disturbed growth and sleep.

Study 1: Children with Sleep Apnea.

Sleep Apnea in children can lead to sleeping issues.

Study Source: Official Journal of Pediatrics.

This 2002 study looked at 70 children admitted to hospital with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. (Essentially, snoring so loudly it disturbs their sleep and inhibits their ability to enter into a deep sleep.)

The children were split into groups (which were initially no different in relative height or weight), with two out of three groups getting surgery to help fix their sleep apnea. Post-surgery, the children had reduced symptoms and could sleep much better?

So what effect did this better sleep have on their height?

Good question! Well, 6 months later the study found that the relative height in both groups of operated children had increased following the surgery. This was backed up by finding much higher growth hormone (IGF-1 and IGFBP-3) concentrations in the operated children.

I’ll quote their final conclusion:

“These observations indicate that growth hormone secretion is impaired in children with OSAS and PS. Respiratory improvement after adenotonsillectomy in children with OSAS results in weight gain and restored growth hormone secretion.”

The good news to take from this study is that post-surgery, the sleep apnea children’s height increase means it’s possible for a child to ‘bounce back’ once their sleep is healthy again.

However, this one small-scale study isn’t enough to draw a full conclusion. Let’s look at another.

Study 2: Sleep Habits & Height in Children Ages 5-11

Study Source: Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Next up is a much larger 1990 study that looked into the effects of sleep in children and their height.

While not the most accurate, surveys of parents were used to estimate the usual sleep and wake times for 5,145 children aged between 5 and 11 years old. Great effort was made to ensure that the children were from all types of race and backgrounds.

To quote their finding directly:

After adjusting for the effects of other variables known to be associated with height, it was shown that there was a weak negative association between sleep duration and height. It is concluded that variation in sleep duration between children is unlikely to have an important influence on growth.

In other words, there was a small association between sleep and height, but not anything which could be taken as significant.

Results in Short

While both studies found a link between lack of sleep and stunted growth, the first was small scale (and didn’t say there was a major link), and the second exclusively stated that lack of sleep is “unlikely to have an important influence on growth”.

In my eyes – that’s the answer. Sleep does have some influence on height, but it’s not going to make a massive difference. That’s why you still get tiny rich kids, and tall lanky poor kids. It’s your genetics that decides 95% of how tall you’re going to be, and other factors are minor at best.

That’s not to say you should keep sleeping badly!

Just to help hammer the message home…

What else is affected by lack of sleep?

If you’re reading this because you (or a loved one) isn’t sleeping well, I’m about to give you some tough love.

Being underslept is like going through life with the difficulty turned up to max. Here’s a few of the (proven) side effects of not getting enough sleep:

  • You forget things easily. Ever felt like your short term memory just stops working? Yeah.
  • You can’t concentrate properly. Enjoy taking 2-3x more time to finish a task
  • Your chance of a car crash skyrockets. Double the chance on 6 hours sleep (compared to 8 hours), and 5x the chance of a crash after less than 4 hours.
  • You lose your willpower. Ever wonder why you give in to cravings? You were probably tired.
  • You get mood swings. Acting erratically is sure to damage relationships with friends and family.
  • Your weight increases. It takes longer for you to get fuller, and your appetite goes haywire.
  • You’ll over-do caffeine. With caffeine having a 6 hour half-life, this will only serve to ruin your next night of sleep.
  • Your sex drive goes down. And you’ll be way less in the mood, in general.
  • Your fertility goes down. No body got time for making babies when it’s running on fumes.
  • You look less attractive. Those bags under your eyes don’t go unnoticed.

And that’s not even all of it.

All of this is scientifically proven, you can find all the references in our guide:

Is 6 Hours of Sleep Enough?

I don’t list all of these to be mean. I list them to encourage you to make sleep a priority in your life! Sleep doesn’t just have a positive effect on height (even if it’s a limited one). It also improves your quality of life in so many ways – it essentially makes you the best version of you. You’ll be less stressed, happier, and much healthier when you’re sleeping well.

Reading This In Your Late Teens / Early 20’s?

If you’re a young adult looking to see whether you’ve got a few inches yet to grow, I have to say it’s possible… but unlikely.

Growth plates close around 16 for women, and between 14-19 for men. So once you’re in your late teens, you’re likely about maxed out for height. There are some exceptions – but these are rare.

That said, make sure to still prioritise getting a good night’s sleep. Especially if you’re worried about finding yourself a hot date. You’ll be happier, smarter, and even more attractive when you’re sleeping well.

What Is Proven to Affect Height?

There’s very little evidence to show that any factors other than genetics affect height.

Anyone saying to the contrary, unless they have robust scientific evidence I’ve never heard of, is probably trying to sell you something.

That said, making sure you’re eating well, sleeping well, staying active, and staying hydrated will all help make sure your squeezing every last millimetre out of your genetics.

Sleeping Literally Makes You Taller

Another point to advocate a good night’s sleep is that it literally makes you taller.

When we’re awake and standing or sitting, gravity is (hopefully) holding us fast to the ground. This puts pressure on your spine, and slowly compresses your intervertebral discs.

This is why we all get shorter as we age.

A good night’s sleep helps to undo this – giving you a little decompression from the days pressure. Don’t believe me? Let’s just say if you want to measure the tallest, do it first thing in the morning after getting up!

Other Quick Height Fixes

If you’re still concerned about trying to be taller, you can always consider:

  • Fixing your posture. Especially if you’re always on a computer, your posture can literally be taking an inch or two off your height. A combination of posture exercises and strengthening your back in the gym will fix this within a couple of weeks.
  • Using insoles. These are small inserts you can put inside shoes. They’ll help add an inch or two if you really need it.
  • Being fashionable. Focus on including vertical stripes/lines in your clothes, and avoiding horizontal ones. Wear well-fitting clothes, and not baggy ones. And try to avoid highly contrasting colours in your pants and tops.
  • Being yourself. Last, and by far the most important, is not to let height distract you from being yourself. Some of the most amazing people I know are short on height. Including 2 guys barely over 5-foot, both of whom have amazing wives, kids, careers, and countless friends. Height, and anything for that matter, is only an issue if you make it one.

Conclusion

I hope this quick guide has helped clear up the impact that sleep can have on height. Especially in growing kids and adults.

Like most things to do with height – there’s not much influence we have, and in the end there’s not much to worry about.

If this content has helped you, please consider checking out some of the related articles below!

Thanks for reading, and sleep well.

Craig

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