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Are Trips to the Bathroom Disrupting Your Sleep?

Posted 5/10/2016 by UHBlog

If nightly trudging to the bathroom is making you groggy, we can help.

Are Trips to the Bathroom Disrupting Your Sleep?

You wake up at midnight to empty your bladder, then find yourself back in the bathroom a couple of hours later. Is something wrong?

Probably not, says urologist Lee Ponsky, MD. But that doesn’t mean you must live with the inconvenience and lost sleep associated with nocturia – or frequent nighttime urination – a condition that is common in older adults.

“As long as you’re emptying your bladder and there doesn’t seem to be anything medically wrong, it’s not dangerous to get up at night (to urinate),” Dr. Ponsky says, adding that sometimes patients mistakenly feel they are voiding fully, but still have urine left in their bladder. “Seeing an urologist may be helpful to ensure that despite the patient’s symptoms, everything is okay.”

Whether or not nocturia is a problem depends on a person’s tolerance.

“Some men get up three or four times a night and it doesn’t bother them,” Dr. Ponsky says. “Another guy may get up once a night and it drives him crazy. But if it’s bothersome, we’re here to help them address it.”

Nocturia poses a chicken-or-egg quandary: Do folks wake up because they need to pee, or do they have to go to the bathroom because they wake up? The culprit may be an enlarged prostate (in men, beginning as young as age 30) or an overactive bladder (in men and women). When sleep apnea or another sleep disorder causes people to wake up, they may feel the urge to urinate immediately, rather than waiting for morning.

Depending on the cause and frequency, nocturia can be treated with medication, sleep apnea treatments (such as sleeping with a CPAP machine) or TURP surgery to open the prostate and unblock the urethra. This surgical procedure involves trimming away excess tissue that is blocking urine flow.

Many times, these simple behaviors can provide relief, Dr. Ponsky says:

  1. Limit fluids after dinner
  2. Reduce caffeine-filled tea, coffee and soda consumption throughout the day; caffeine can stimulate the bladder
  3. Empty your bladder fully before bed
  4. Ask your doctor if you can take certain medications, especially diuretics, earlier in the day

According to Dr. Ponsky, nocturia is usually harmless. However, if your urine is burning or there is blood in it, or if you can’t void completely, you should see your doctor. These can be signs of infection or other serious medical conditions.

Lee Ponsky, MD is an urologist and the director of the Urologic Oncology Center, University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Ponsky or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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