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Environmental Factor – November 2022: Does Loud Noise During Sleep Affect Growth Hormone Levels?

By on November 1, 2022 0

A small clinical study in adolescents found that a single night of disruptive sleep did not reduce the body’s ability to produce growth hormone. Growth hormone is produced in the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, and its secretion is an important regulator of growth, metabolism and muscle mass in children. Growth hormone is usually released in children primarily during sleep, but smaller amounts are released during the day.

Given the increasing rates of disturbed sleep in adolescents and noisy environments, NIEHS researchers set out to determine whether disturbing sleep during childhood would reduce growth hormone secretion.

The article builds on previous research by Shaw and colleagues that showed that disruption of deep sleep did not affect reproductive hormones in pubertal children. (Photo courtesy of Lightfield Studios/Shutterstock.com)

“The results of this study offer good news for parents,” said Natalie Shaw, MD, head of the Pediatric Neuroendocrinology Group at NIEHS and senior author of the new study, which was published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society. “Parents don’t have to worry too much about the occasional night of disturbed sleep harming their child’s growth.”

However, Shaw cautioned that the study was relatively small and more research needs to be done to see if multiple nights of disturbed sleep would have the same results. The study did not focus on sleep deprivation or sleep disturbance.

Sleep pattern monitoring

Natalie Shaw, MD Shaw holds a secondary position in the NIEHS Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw/NIEHS)

The study, which was conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, included seven girls and seven boys, ages 11 to 14, who had entered puberty. The participants were not taking any drugs known to interfere with sleep, growth or puberty, and had no known sleep disorders.

Researchers used polysomnography to monitor participants’ sleep patterns throughout the night. They also took blood samples using a long IV line every 10 minutes to measure growth hormone levels. Each participant went through two sleep studies, spaced two months apart, one with and one without sleep disturbance. During sleep-disturbed nights, loud sounds played through a bedside speaker as the participant entered slow-wave sleep, the deepest form of sleep. The sounds used to disrupt participants’ sleep ranged from silent, simulated door knocking to louder sounds comparable to those of a garbage truck.

An unexpected discovery

The scientists found that there was no difference in growth hormone secretion between the two study nights, including the number of growth hormone pulses and their amplitude or size. Shaw was surprised that the participants all awoke the next morning feeling refreshed, with no memory of having been awakened from a deep sleep. There were also no differences in morning vital signs or cortisol levels, suggesting that the sleep disruption had not created stress.

“This finding was unexpected given the traditional view that undisturbed deep sleep is required for growth hormone secretion to occur,” Shaw said. “We thought we would see dips in growth hormone when deep sleep was disrupted, but we didn’t.”

This document is based on a earlier paper in which the researchers found that the disruption of deep sleep did not affect the reproductive hormones of pubertal children.

Calvert ME, Molsberry SA, Kangarloo T, Amin MR, Genty V, Faghih RT, Klerman EB, Shaw ND. 2022. Acute sleep disturbance does not decrease pulsatile growth hormone secretion in pubertal children. J Endocr Soc 6(11):bvac146.

Shaw ND, Butler JP, Nemati S, Kangarloo T, Ghassemi M, Malhotra A, Hall JE. 2015. Accumulated deep sleep is a strong predictor of LH pulse onset in postpubertal children. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 100(3):1062-1070.

(Robin Mackar is a writer and media relations coordinator in the Office of Communications and Public Liaison at NIEHS.)