The Scientific Guide to Appearing Taller

I know many short, ahem, vertically challenged people, because statistically, half the population is below median height (seriously, if you think about it, half the population is below the median in any area you can think of!).

Median vs Average
If you’re going to quote me on this, make sure you say median rather than average! Credit to GoComics

But there’s hope yet. You’re probably past the age where you got high levels of GH (growth hormone- I’m not going to comment on the originality of scientific naming right here), but if you’ve ever wanted to add just half a centimetre, from 149.5 to 150, then, just measure your height in the morning!

You are quite literally up to 0.5cm taller in the morning than the evening.

I learnt that from a lecturer who insisted that if we were ever testing the effects of anything on height, it was absolutely necessary to measure height at the same time every day. Otherwise, you could say whatever latest superfood caused a 0.5cm height increase, simply because you measured height in the evening one time and the morning the next.

 

So what’s the science behind that?

It comes down to our spines and the little intervertebral discs in-between all the spinal vertebrae (who knows how many vertebrae there are? Comment below!). These discs are made up of cartilage with an outer anulus fibrosus layer and inner nucleus pulposus. Pretty much, the outside provides strength and the middle is a shock-absorbing gel.

716_intervertebral_disk
Pretty picture of your intervertebral discs!

Now this inside layer (nucleus pulposus) is what we care about. It’s full of gel-like stuff and liquids to help you absorb shock (like your car’s suspension). As you’re walking and being upright all day long, gravity acts to ‘push’ you down. This every so slightly squashes the liquid and fluid out of your intervertebral discs and compresses them.

intervertebral-disc
Squashed vs non-squashed vertebral discs

And a little bit adds up to a lot.

Every intervertebral disc is a little squashed so your entire height is pushed down up to half a centimetre.

Then, when you get into bed, you’re lying down for a number of hours and those discs uncompress as they fill with fluid again. Then when you jump out of bed to measure your height, you’re taller than the previous night!

Because this effect is due to the effects of gravity, it’s also the reason why astronauts ‘grow taller’ in space. They have no gravity acting on them and so nothing is compressed and they can actually be up to several centimetres taller in space as compared to on Earth!

So now, just remember to measure your height in the morning!


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