Issue filed here: https://github.com/espruino/Espruino/issues/1559
Actually running process.memory() is a perfectly fine workaround. The issue seems to be when the free list is out of order but no memory is collected by GC. The GC pass returns 0 so Espruino thinks nothing happened (even though the free list is reordered), and never bothers trying to reallocate again.
It should be easy enough to fix.
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