For many of us, it first happens during pregnancy. We can’t seem to get through the night without visiting the bathroom at various inconvenient hours. As we get older, we may again feel like slaves to our needy bladders.
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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.
It’s also important to talk to your doctor because frequent urination can be more than just a nuisance — it can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition, says urologist Emily Slopnick, MD.
Tips for dealing with nighttime urination
Try these suggestions to help you get your beauty rest:
- Keep a voiding diary: Monitor how much liquid you drink and your urine output. Take note of whether you’re urinating too much throughout the day or just at night. “If you’re urinating more than ten times in 24 hours, that may be too much,” Dr. Slopnick says. However, the frequency of urination can vary based on how much you drink, what kinds of liquids you drink, and what medications you take. For example, taking a diuretic or “water pill” will cause you to urinate more often. A lot depends on your age, too. While your bladder’s capacity doesn’t necessarily decrease with age, the prevalence of overactive bladder increases with age. 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.
- Limit your intake of fluids two hours before bedtime: Drinking too close to bedtime can lead to urinating at night. Also 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.
- Check for sleep apnea: 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 the kidneys to excrete more water. In this case, treating sleep apnea should take care of the problem.
- Exercise and wear support hose for swelling in your feet or legs: 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 with your feet at the level of 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.
- Elevate your legs: 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).
- Take your diuretic in the afternoon: If you take a diuretic or “water pill,” sometimes used 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. Ask your doctor if it’s okay to take this medication at a different time of day.
Some of it is part of aging
It’s true that as we age, our bodies make less of the hormone that allows us to retain fluids. Because of this, our bladders fill more rapidly. Also, our bladders are unable to hold a lot of urine as we get older.
Between these two factors, adults beyond age 60 should expect to wake to use the bathroom at least once each night. But even so, these tips can help minimize the nightly excursions for people of any age.