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Nocturia: Don’t let bathroom breaks ruin your sleep

A pair of pajama- and slipper-clad legs enter a bathroom at night.

Sept. 4, 2023—Getting up during the night to go to the bathroom is common, and often it's no cause for concern. But if you regularly need to urinate two or more times per night, you may have a condition called nocturia.

According to the Sleep Foundation, nocturia affects about 40% of adults between ages 18 and 79. It becomes more common as people age. Nocturia isn't a disease—but it can be a symptom of a health problem. And just because it's common doesn't mean it can't be treated.

Causes of nocturia

The most common cause of nocturia is the excess production of urine at night. This is called nocturnal polyuria. A less common cause is global polyuria, which is the excess production of urine both during the day and at night.

Urine production can be triggered by behaviors, such as drinking too many liquids close to bedtime. Alcohol and caffeine, as well as some medications, are diuretics. Diuretics make you need to go to the bathroom more often.

Some health conditions can cause your body to pass more urine during the night. These include:

  • Diabetes.
  • Enlarged prostate.
  • Heart disease.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Insomnia.
  • Restless legs syndrome.
  • Urinary tract infection.

Treatment options

You don't have to live with nocturia. It can disrupt your sleep and cause you to feel tired during the day. And all those sleepy trips to the bathroom can increase your risk of falling.

Luckily, you can do something about nocturia. Start with these tips from the National Association for Continence.

Change your evening routines. Drink fewer liquids at night. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.

Take an afternoon nap—or elevate your legs. If fluid builds up in your legs by day, it can contribute to nocturia when that liquid is reabsorbed overnight. Putting your feet up during the day—and using the bathroom when you get up—can help.

Keep a diary. Write down the dates you get up during the night. Note the frequency of your bathroom trips and the conditions that may have led to needing to urinate.

Talk to your primary care provider about your symptoms. Your provider may want to do some tests to determine their cause, like a urinalysis and a urine culture. They can also prescribe medication to give you relief.

With treatment, you can enjoy better sleep, more comfort and less need to get up during the night.

Visit our Bladder health topic center to learn more about how the bladder works and common bladder conditions.

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