Adult height is determined by a complex combination of factors, most of which are outside of a person’s control. Yet some people may worry about their height and wonder if there is anything they can do to affect their stature. Some may even wonder if sleeping more could make them taller.

A few studies have found that sleeping more in childhood and adolescence is associated with growing taller, though there is not enough evidence to say whether sleeping more increases a person’s adult height. Height is primarily the result of genetics, but lifestyle features such as nutrition and sleep may also affect how tall a person becomes.

Does Lack of Sleep Affect a Person’s Height?

Researchers do not name a temporary lack of sleep during childhood as something that affects a person’s adult height . However, the relationship between sleep and human growth is not yet fully understood. Researchers propose that height is mostly determined not by sleep, but by a complex interplay between a person’s genetics, nutrition, and the environment in which they live. 

Studies also show that a person’s adult height is influenced by their parents’ or caregivers’ lifestyles and socioeconomic status. For example, a person may have a shorter adult height if their parent smoked while pregnant, if the person lacked access to health care or nutritious food as a child, or if they were exposed to toxic chemicals in their environment during development.

Much of a person’s height is a result of their genetics. In fact, over 3,000 gene variants have been found to affect a child’s growth and adult height. Researchers suspect that each of these genes has its own effect, and, combined, they largely determine a person’s height . Genes influence a person’s height through a variety of mechanisms, including the regulation of hormones important for growth.

Research has found that sleep loss may affect the production of human growth hormone (hGH). Human growth hormone helps people grow taller and is produced by an organ in the brain called the pituitary gland. Because most hGH is released at night, children who are sleep- deprived may have lower levels of hGH , though a true deficiency in hGH is rare.

How Does a Person Grow Taller?

In childhood, a person’s height increases as their bones lengthen. Bones lengthen by developing new tissue in a part of the bone called the growth plate. Growth plates are located at the ends of certain longer bones, like those in the thighs, forearms, hands, and fingers. The development of new bone is a complex process, regulated by hormones, genetics, and other factors.

How tall a person may grow to be as an adult cannot be easily predicted by their size at birth. This is because the size of a newborn is less related to genetics and more closely linked to the pregnant parent’s diet and the environment within the womb.

Rather than getting taller at a steady rate from birth to adulthood, people gain height primarily through growth spurts, or periods in which they grow quickly. The time when a person has a growth spurt, and how much they grow during it, can depend on their age, sex, whether they mature early, and even the time of year

After birth, growth spurts occur during three important phases in a person’s life.

  • Infancy: Early infancy is usually a period of rapid growth, with many babies growing about 10 inches in their first year. Most children reach about half of their adult height between 19 and 24 months old. Throughout the first two years of life, growth is increasingly driven by a child’s genetics.
  • Childhood: Children typically grow at a steady pace from 2 years old until early adolescence. For most children, this rate is around 2 to 4 inches of growth each year.
  • Adolescence: As children near puberty, the speed of their growth increases. This growth spurt usually starts between 8 and 12 years of age depending on the child’s sex and physical maturity. When growth is at its peak, children may grow 3 to 4 inches taller each year.

Most people stop getting taller during adolescence as the growth plates in their bones close and stop expanding. The timing of this process depends on several factors, including whether a child’s development is early or delayed. For example, children with delayed growth due to illness or lack of nutrition may continue to grow until they have reached their genetic potential.

What Is a Normal Height?

Most children who are a different height than their peers are nonetheless developing normally. There are several reasons why children may be shorter or taller than the average for their age group that aren’t related to underlying health issues. 

  • Genetics: A child may be shorter or taller than their peers because of their genetics. This is often the case for children whose parents are shorter or taller than their peers as well. 
  • Growth delay: Children’s bodies develop at different rates, and some children may experience delayed growth compared to their peers. These children may go through puberty and experience their adolescent growth spurt later than others, but eventually catch up and reach a normal adult height.
  • Early growth: Some children develop faster and earlier than their peers, making them tall at a young age. Growth in these children may slow sooner than their peers.
  • Idiopathic short stature: For some children, there is no known reason for their shorter stature. These children develop in a healthy way and do have an underlying health problem, but happen to be shorter than others their age. 

To evaluate whether a child is growing normally, doctors consider how quickly the child grows, rather than any single measurement of their height. This rate of growth is often referred to as growth velocity or height velocity. Once determined, a child’s height velocity can be compared to average rates for children of the same age and sex by using a growth chart.

Is There a Way to Predict Height?

Although it is not possible to perfectly predict a child’s future height, researchers have developed several ways to estimate how tall a child or adolescent may grow. These methods may be combined to come up with the best estimate of a child’s eventual adult height.

  • Projected growth: A growth chart is one method for predicting future height. Using a growth chart involves looking at how the child compares to their peers at their current age, then following that line on the chart to an age between 18 and 20 years old.
  • Midparental height: For a child assigned female at birth, adult height can be estimated by subtracting 13 centimeters, or a little over 5 inches, from their father’s height and averaging that with their mother’s height. The process is similar for a child assigned male at birth, but 13 centimeters is added to their mother’s height, then that number is averaged with their father’s height.
  • Bone age: Doctors may also estimate a child’s eventual height using the appearance of their bones. This estimate is typically made by taking an X-ray or other image of a child’s left hand and wrist and looking at the growth plates and bones. This method can also help doctors look for potential causes of abnormal growth patterns.

What Can Someone Do to Grow Taller?

After birth, a person’s adult height is mostly determined by their genetics. Although lifestyle choices may not make a person taller, eating a healthy diet and sleeping enough can support a child’s growth and development. 

Treatments to increase growth in otherwise healthy children and adolescents are controversial. Although several potential ways of increasing height have been proposed, these methods are expensive, invasive, and often come with negative side effects . These methods include treatment with growth hormones and the use of medications that delay puberty to prevent the closing of an adolescent’s growth plates.

Another method that can be used to increase a person’s height is called bone lengthening. Bone lengthening surgeries traditionally corrected medical issues and differences in leg length due to injury, disease, or birth defect. Nowadays, this method may also be advertised as a cosmetic procedure for people without underlying health conditions, which is controversial due to safety risks.

Some children and adolescents may feel concerned about their height. These worries may be exacerbated if parents or caregivers believe that having a short stature will lead to children having poor self-esteem and difficulties in school and relationships. 

It can be helpful for caregivers to recognize that a short stature is usually normal, and that being short does not prevent a child from living a fulfilling life . Caregivers can help children concerned about their height by supporting the development of positive self-esteem and body image.

Do Growth Hormones Help Children Grow Taller?

A doctor may recommend growth hormones for children who are diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency, which is a rare condition. But using hGH to treat children with short stature who are otherwise healthy is controversial. Treating a child with hGH is costly, requires daily injections for years, and does not always cause the child to grow taller. 

What Can Someone Do to Avoid Losing Height as They Get Older?

People commonly lose height as they get older. After age 40, people lose around half an inch of height every decade until their 70s, when height loss happens even faster. Age-related changes in height are typically related to the effects of aging on the bones, joints, and muscles.

While some loss of height is expected as people age, it can also be a sign of health conditions like osteoporosis. With osteoporosis, a person’s bones degrade, giving them an increased risk of bone fractures and breaks. Many people are unaware they have osteoporosis until they fracture or break a bone.

Older adults can slow the effects of aging by making sure they get enough exercise, eat a healthy and varied diet, limit the use of alcohol and tobacco, and talk to their doctor about the risk and treatment of osteoporosis.

Talk to Your Doctor if You Have Concerns

If you have concerns about your child’s growth or height, consider talking to their doctor. While most children who are a different height than their peers simply have normal variations in growth, a doctor can assess a child’s health and look for any health conditions or abnormal growth patterns.

To evaluate a child’s growth, doctors often ask questions about a child’s medical history and conduct a physical exam. Doctors may pay particular attention to any symptoms of underlying medical conditions, as well as the child’s growth velocity and an estimate of their adult height. 

If the doctor is concerned about a child’s growth based on these findings, they may recommend additional medical tests. Although most children who are shorter or taller than their peers are normal, atypical growth patterns can also be caused by a wide range of health issues, including:

  • Chronic health conditions 
  • Genetic disorders
  • Malnutrition
  • Infections
  • Medications, including glucocorticoids and stimulants
  • Emotional health issues
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References
9 Sources

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