You finally get tucked into bed and then it hits you. You have to get up and pee. So, you drag yourself to the bathroom one last time before settling in for the evening. But then hours later, it happens again. And again. And again. If frequent urination is keeping you up late at night and disrupting your ability to sleep, you may be wondering how to stop it from happening.
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The good news is that if your bladder is waking you up at any hour of the night to urinate, what doctors call nocturia, there are small but effective changes you can make for better sleep. But it’s also important to talk to your doctor because frequent urination can be more than just a nuisance — it could also be a sign of an underlying medical condition, says urologist Emily Slopnick, MD.
In many cases, frequent urination is a simple side effect of getting older. As we age, our bodies make less of the hormone that allows us to retain fluids. Because of this, our bladders fill more rapidly and are unable to hold a lot of urine as we get older. You’re also more likely to urinate more often if you’re pregnant. But frequent urination can be a symptom of more serious conditions, too, like:
Your frequency of urination can vary based on how much you drink, what kinds of liquids you drink, and what medications you take, as well. For example, taking a diuretic or “water pill” will cause you to urinate more often. Certain foods like alcoholic beverages, coffee, grapes and yogurt can also irritate your bladder and cause you to urinate (or feel like you need to urinate) more often.
So, what can you do to lessen your trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night when so many things can cause frequent urination? Here are a few ideas:
Monitor how much liquid you drink, what foods you eat, whether you take a diuretic and how often, and tally the number of times and length of time you urinate. Take note of whether you’re urinating too much throughout the day or just at night.
“If you’re urinating more than 10 times in 24 hours, that may be too much,” Dr. Slopnick says.
If you take a diuretic for high blood pressure, leg swelling or congestive heart disease, it might be helpful to take this in the afternoon. That way, the medication will cause your body to make more urine in the afternoon and evening, possibly resulting in less urine production overnight. Check-in with your doctor first to make sure it’s OK to take this medication at a different time of day.
Drinking too close to bedtime can lead to urinating at night. You’ll also want to limit alcohol and caffeine, which are bladder stimulants, throughout the day. If you’re struggling with nighttime urination, cut back to just one alcoholic beverage, or none at all, and decrease your current caffeine intake.
During deep sleep, our bodies produce antidiuretic hormones. This allows us to retain more fluid overnight. People with sleep apnea don’t get into the deep stages of sleep, so their bodies don’t make enough of this hormone. In addition, the drops in oxygen levels during apnea episodes trigger kidneys to excrete more water. In this case, treating sleep apnea should also help lessen your frequent trips to the bathroom at night.
If you experience swelling in your feet or legs, you’ll probably wake more often overnight to urinate. That’s because the fluid pooling in your extremities during the day will be reabsorbed into your system once you lie down if your feet are level with your heart. Then, the fluid will head to your kidneys to be processed. To help with this issue, exercise and wear support hose to try to get that fluid processed before bedtime.
In the late afternoon and evening, if you prop up your legs for an hour at the level of your heart, this can help you urinate during the day (rather than at night).
It’s normal to pee four to eight times in one day, but if you’re visiting the bathroom more than that — or if you’re getting up to go to the bathroom several times in one evening — you may want to talk to your healthcare provider who can help determine if there’s an underlying medical issue that’s causing it.
If your frequent urination is a factor of aging, it’s good to keep in mind that adults older than 60 should expect to use the bathroom at least once every night. If you’re between 65 and 70 and going more than twice a night, you should make an appointment with your doctor. Also, see a doctor if you’re older than 70 and urinating more than three times each night.