Monday, October 11, 2010

Why Jordanians are Shorter than Americans...

So, first thing many people will want to argue is that Jordanians are not shorter than Americans. If there were actually growth charts here, I'd be happy to quote them. Instead, I have to use my anecdotal evidence based on the Beans. So, let's talk about the Beans. I began to notice this short phenomenon with ButterBean. ButterBean takes after me. She has the petite genes. When she was under a year old, our pediatrician expressed serious concerns that she was so small. He looked at me and at El 3atal and thought she should be bigger. I went home, got my baby book information, and brought it in. She was WAY bigger than me at her age which allayed his concerns. Even so, on today's growth charts, ButterBean consistently measures in the 10th percentile. That means that 90% of kids her age in the US would be bigger than her. That's right, 90%!

So, by that measure in each 10 kids in the class, 9 would be taller than she is in the US. By that measure, I expect her, like me, to be the wee-est one in her class. So, I ask you... in Jordan is she the smallest? Not at all. Not by a LONG shot. In fact, at last year's class performance Teta Bean and I discussed the fact that she is 50th percentile. She's in the middle, half taller, half shorter. She's just plain average in height. So, I got to thinking, well maybe she just jumped out of that 10th %ile bracket on the charts. I came home, measured her and plotted it. Nope, she's still 10th %ile in the US. But 10th in the US is 50th here.

Okay, now you're thinking that's just one data point. No worries, I have 2 more. JuniorBean is also in the 10th percentile for his age on US growth charts. He looks like ButterBean and is small. But, happily (for me and for him), he's also not the smallest in his class. He's not even one of the smallest 2 or 3. He's not quite average, but he's getting there after a growth spurt during the summer.

My final data point is JujuBean who is 75th percentile in height in the US. Yep, she takes after El 3atal's family and got the tall genes. In the US, she'd be tall, but 25% of the class would be taller. So, in that mythical class of 10, she'd have 2.5 girls taller than her. And in Jordan? She's an Amazon. When put next to her best friend, there is literally a head's worth of difference. She towers over the majority of her classmates. This year, she got a new classmate who is taller... and apparently supposed to be a third grader. In fact, JujuBean is average for ButterBean's third grade class. And in the US, she wouldn't be the tallest. Not at all.

So, you see, even among kids who typically continue to trend upward in height, Jordanians are shorter. And, what could cause this? Well, clearly genes cause some of this. Short dads typically produce short sons. If most US dads are taller then most of their kids would be taller. There's nutrition. After all, everything we read in the mainstream media is that Americans feed their kids really well, right? Not! Well, yesterday I developed a theory...

I came across an Article on sleep deprivation and growth. It is very interesting. I read this years ago and use it to help my kids understand why they have an early bed time. I have explained to them that they grow in their sleep, so if they aren't sleeping enough, they won't grow...

Basically, the article on BabyCenter explains how the human growth hormone experiences its most intense release "shortly after the beginning of deep sleep." Without enough sleep, kids may experience slowed or stunted growth... Production of the growth hormone can even be disrupted without enough sleep.

So, how much is enough? KG2 kids should be getting 10 to 12 1/2 hours of sleep per night! So, the family that eats dinner at 8 and puts the kids to bed at 9 or 10... your child should be sleeping until 7 or 8 am. If they are on the low end of the sleep needs scale. And if they fall right asleep. That's not 10-12 hours of "lights out", that's 10-12 hours of SLEEP.

For those who are saying, but my kids are older... 3rd grade, 4th grade, 6th grade... Great, they only need 9-1/2 to 11-1/2 hours of sleep. Each child needs a slightly different amount, but the children of Jordan definitely need more than the 7 or 8 they seem to get...

So is height the only thing that is affected by too little sleep? Nope. The article mentions that it can affect heart and lung strength and immune system function (yep, they may get sick more). Sleep-deprived kids may overeat and show preference for high-calorie carbs (chips and cookies anyone?). And the lack of sleep hurts their ability to break down the insulin leading to Type 2 Diabetes. And that's just the pure physical impact. They also experience decreased motor skills, diminished concentration, and poor judgment leading to accidents, behavioral issue, and performance issues.

And for those who think that afternoon naps will make up for it, remember that the growth hormone is released after the beginning of DEEP sleep, not light afternoon napping. The moral of my story is, make your bedtime earlier in order to get taller kids! I mean, the Beans may go back to being short, but at least they'll have fewer behavior related distractions in the classroom ;).



At 4:24 AM , Blogger Haitham Seelawi said...

An interesting post MommaBean. Sleep is definitely important for growth.

But do not you think that growth charts are not universal? I mean different regions should have different growth charts?

Btw, the size of a human being is somewhat related to her/his mother's pelvis size during pregnancy.

At 6:46 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Haitham, thanks for your comment. Growth charts absolutely should be by location. However, those growth charts would also be able to show you the difference between average in each of the locations. Sadly, as far as I've found, Jordan doesn't have them. I use the US ones because they're all I have.

I have no idea about the relationship to pelvis sizes... not being a doctor I avoid thinking about these topics. ;)

At 11:55 AM , Blogger abu 'n um tulip said...

I actually guessed it would be sleep when I saw the title of this post.

Now, we do have the phenomenon of obese children here. I think it has to do with letting children parent themselves. From my experience, many children are picky eaters, but some will eat anything and everything in front of them. Since many Jordanians give the kids what they want, and don't force anything on them, the picky ones are undernourished (and eating junk), because "he doesn't want_____" Well, I don't care what he wants, you make him eat good food. Others are eating too much because they really like to eat. Very few kids "like" to sleep, so most are overtired.
There seems to be a big push at schools now for proper nutrition. I hope the push for adequate sleep will come next.

The moral of the story: parents are parents, children are children.

-Abu Tulip

At 12:21 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Abu Tulip, if only parents WERE parents... in both places. But, yes, I agree there is too much permissiveness in both food and sleep. And I agree, I'm seeing good signs from the beans schools where they are at least talking about adequate sleep, how much and how important it is... Here's hoping others schools will get on that band wagon.


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