Does a child do most of their growing when they are asleep?
The expert answers:
Sleep is essential for normal height (linear) growth, as well as for the growth and development of organs and tissues (brain, heart, muscles, etc.). Two major reasons account for this finding: 1. Growth hormone, a substance produced by the pituitary gland at the base of the brain, stimulates growth of the body and its constituent parts. This hormone is secreted during sleep; and, 2. Our body expends much less energy during sleep than when awake and active; thus, energy can be "diverted" from maintaining wakefulness and activity levels, to the function of growth.
Many studies, in a variety of clinical settings, demonstrate that conditions interfering with normal sleep patterns adversely effect normal growth. Indeed, the fact that rapidly growing infants and children and infants require prolonged sleep times attests to the fact that "growth happens during sleep."