Waking up occasionally to use the bathroom is nothing to worry about. But if it consistently happens at least twice a night, you may have a condition called nocturia that can impede the restorative nature of sleep, affecting your daytime performance and mood. In a recent study of women over 40, more than a third reported experiencing nocturia.
Diuretic medications or drinking too many fluids late in the day may be to blame, but nocturia can also be a symptom of diabetes or heart failure. In the case of diabetes, not all excess sugar is reabsorbed by the kidneys and instead ends up in your urine, where it draws in extra water and increases your need to pee. Heart failure can make you feel the urge to go because it causes excess fluids to collect in your kidneys at night. Nocturia can also develop if you’ve recently experienced a urinary tract infection or other bladder disorder.
Much remains to be learned about nocturia but there is likely some overlap with a condition called overactive bladder, also referred to as “urge incontinence.” It’s caused by frequent involuntary contraction of the bladder’s detrusor muscle at inappropriate times, such as when the bladder is only partially full. This results in the sudden and strong urge to urinate any time of day. The condition is more common in women than in men, and an underlying cause often proves elusive.
If you’re dealing with nocturia, start by limiting fluids and bladder irritants like caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods after dinner. Avoid feminine wipes that have fragrance, which can irritate the urethra. Practicing kegel exercises can also help strengthen pelvic floor muscles and improve bladder control. After ruling out the medical issues mentioned above, your doctor may recommend drugs that reduce the urge to pee at night, but these often come with side effects such as blurred vision, dry mouth, constipation, and even memory impairment.