Many people wish they were taller. While height is mostly determined by genetics, getting enough high-quality sleep is essential for reaching your full growth potential. So when is the optimal time to sleep if you want to maximize your height?
The importance of sleep for growth
Sleep provides the body time to recover and recharge. During deep, restorative sleep, the pituitary gland releases human growth hormone (HGH), which stimulates tissue growth and cell reproduction. HGH is absolutely critical for normal development in children and adolescents.
Without adequate sleep, your body does not produce enough HGH to reach its peak growth potential. Numerous studies confirm that chronic sleep deprivation during childhood and the teenage years can impair growth and result in shorter height.
So when it comes to height, sleep is a key factor in providing the body optimal conditions to grow taller.
Sleep cycle stages
To understand when to sleep to maximize HGH release, it helps to review the stages of the normal sleep cycle:
Light sleep, easy to wake up
Moderate sleep, with periods of muscle relaxation and slowed heart rate and breathing
Deep sleep, very difficult to wake up
Extremely deep sleep, when growth hormone is released
REM sleep (rapid eye movement), dreaming sleep
The most critical stage for growth hormone release is Stage 4 deep sleep. Reaching this stage requires at least 7-8 hours of total sleep time for most people.
Growth hormone release
Here are some key points about HGH release and sleep:
- HGH is primarily released in pulsatile bursts during Stage 4 deep sleep.
- The largest amount of HGH is released about an hour after falling asleep.
- A smaller surge of HGH is released before waking up.
- If sleep deprived, the body will prioritize deep sleep stages to recover, although total growth hormone release may still be impaired.
Given these HGH secretion patterns, research indicates that the early hours of sleep are most important for height growth.
Recommended sleep times
Most experts recommend the following nightly sleep ranges to support growth in children and teens:
11-14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
10-13 hours per 24 hours
9-12 hours per 24 hours
8-10 hours per 24 hours
For maximum height growth, aim for the higher end of the recommended sleep range for your age.
Growth plate closure
Getting enough sleep is especially important before growth plates close. Growth plates are areas of cartilage near the ends of bones that allow skeletal elongation.
Here are average ages when growth plates close:
|Leg Bones||14-18 years old||16-18 years old|
|Arm Bones||15 years old||17 years old|
|Pelvis||15-17 years old||17-19 years old|
As you can see from the table, girls tend to stop growing sooner than boys due to earlier puberty. Getting enough sleep becomes especially imperative as you near these final years of growth potential.
Tips for better sleep
Here are some tips to help maximize your sleep quality and duration:
- Follow a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends
- Make your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet
- Avoid electronics before bedtime
- Avoid large meals, caffeine, and exercise close to bedtime
- Try natural sleep aids like chamomile tea or magnesium
- Use relaxation techniques to wind down, like reading a book or taking a bath
- Go to sleep when you feel drowsy to fall asleep more quickly
If you continue having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. They may recommend sleep studies to diagnose any underlying issues, like sleep apnea, that may be disrupting your rest.
Other factors affecting growth
While sleep is critical, other factors influence height growth as well:
The biggest determiner of your ultimate height is genetics. Having tall parents increases your odds of being tall. Genetics accounts for about 80% of height.
Ensuring adequate nutrition provides the necessary building blocks and fuel for growth. Protein, calcium, vitamin D and zinc are particularly important.
In addition to growth hormone, proper levels of thyroid hormone, sex hormones and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) are needed to maximize growth.
Regular physical activity, especially weight-bearing and high-intensity exercise, promotes growth hormone release and healthy skeletal development.
Untreated chronic diseases like celiac disease or hormone disorders can impair growth. Growth delay may be the only symptom of an underlying health problem.
Smoking, medications, caffeine overuse, stress and poor posture can also negatively impact growth.
So while sleep is crucial, don’t neglect other healthy habits that support development.
When growth typically stops
Maximum growth speed is reached about 2 years after puberty starts, then decelerates.
Here are the average ages when boys and girls stop growing in height:
- Girls: 16 years old
- Boys: 18 years old
The age range varies considerably, but girls reach their adult height about 2 years after getting their first period. Boys typically continue growing longer than girls.
Even after reaching adult height, young people often continue “filling out” and gaining muscle into their 20s. So don’t despair if you haven’t hit your peak height yet!
How sleep affects height
Here’s a recap of how getting enough quality sleep, especially at key growth periods, can help maximize your height potential:
- Allows more growth hormone release during deep sleep stages
- Increases time the body can spend growing during rest
- Enhances recovery from daily stresses and injury
- Improves energy for optimal nutrition and exercise
- Prevents sleep deprivation, which impairs growth
Aim for at least 8-11 hours of high-quality sleep each night to get enough deep, restorative rest. Prioritize sleep especially in the years surrounding puberty. Developing optimal sleep habits can help you reach your maximum genetic height potential.
Getting adequate, high-quality sleep is essential for reaching your full growth potential. Make sleep a priority and practice good sleep habits, especially starting around puberty when growth rate increases. The early hours of sleep are especially important for releasing growth hormone.
Aim for the recommended hours of sleep for your age, and try to maximize time in deep, restorative sleep stages. Combining plentiful sleep with proper nutrition, exercise, posture, and health care can help you optimize your height. While genetics largely determines height, ensuring sufficient sleep during development gives you your best shot at growing taller.