Do your children sometimes seem to outgrow their clothes or shoes overnight? Research by anthropologist and physician Michelle Lampl has confirmed this conventional wisdom about growth spurts. Children do not grow continuously but rather get taller in brief, rapid periods, likely while they sleep, sometimes growing more than half an inch in a single night. The growing pains that wake some children at night may occur during such spurts. Infants appear to need extra sleep during their growth spurts, explaining some of the irregularity in infant sleep patterns that often frustrates parents. Infants in one study slept more before and during their sudden growth spurts compared with periods in which they were not actively growing, with boys more likely to take longer naps and girls napping more frequently. Lampl’s research suggests that sleep is integral to growth processes.
Dr. Sylvia Amsler is a lecturer in anthropology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Lample M and Johnson M. 2011. Infant growth in length follows prolonged sleep and increased naps. Sleep 34:641-650.