Having to get up repeatedly every night to empty your bladder can be extremely frustrating and leave you exhausted during the daytime, but it can also be a warning sign of more serious underlying health problems.
Excessive night-time bathroom trips
Nocturia might sound like the name of a Scandinavian death metal band, but actually it’s a medical term that refers to the need to interrupt one’s sleep by having to get up and urinate two or more times during the night.
And it’s not just a problem for pregnant women and old folks. A recent study that surveyed 5300 men aged 20 and older found that in the US, one man in every five has to get up at least twice a night to empty his bladder.
Many possible causes
Nocturia is a perfectly normal phenomenon in many men over 70 as the capacity of the bladder tends to decrease with age. You can also expect your bladder to keep waking you up if you have a habit of drinking a lot of fluids close to bed time. In addition, nocturia can be a side-effect of certain medications, such as diuretics and medicines used to treat cardiac conditions and bipolar disorder.
Whatever the cause may be, the effects of regularly interrupted sleep, ranging from depression symptoms and a decreased quality of life as a result of constant fatigue, can be devastating and you should definitely discuss it with your GP if it is a recurring problem.
There is another very good reason why you shouldn’t ignore nocturia: it can be a symptom of a wide variety of more serious underlying medical problems, including:
- high blood pressure,
- heart failure,
- urinary incontinence and urinary tract infection,
- an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia),
- sleep apnea and insomnia,
- prostate cancer, and
- kidney infection and failure.
In consultation with your GP, there are several treatment options you can pursue to deal with nocturia. When nocturia is merely the warning sign of a more deep-seated medical concern, it is imperative to treat the cause (e.g. diabetes or high blood pressure) and not the symptom.
There are several medications used specifically for overactive bladders and nocturia, including a drug that blocks the bladder muscles’ ability to contract, antidepressants that make it harder to urinate by increasing the tension at the neck of the bladder and a synthetic version of a hormone that stops the body from producing urine at night.
In many cases of nocturia, a simple change in lifestyle may result in significant improvements:
- reduce your caffeine, alcohol and late-night fluid intake,
- do moderate daily exercise,
- adjust your sleeping patterns, and
- keep warm while sleeping.
Do the Kegel
You might have heard of Kegel exercises,which many pregnant women are encouraged to do regularly in order to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles. Well, it turns out that men can do them too to help strengthen the muscles of the bladder and pelvis, which can in turn help them to reduce the incidence of nocturia.
Here’s what you do:
- Identify the right muscles to exercise by stopping the flow while urinating. Breathe out while doing so and don’t clench your buttocks or contract your thigh muscles.
- Once you’ve worked out how to do this you can repeat the exercise at any time just about anywhere when you’re not peeing – in the traffic on the way to work, in front of your computer screen or TV, etc.
- Over a period of five minutes, repeatedly contract the muscles to a count of five to ten seconds.
- Do this twice a day (no more) and you may gradually see an improvement in your nocturia problem.
(Andrew Luyt, Health24, March 2011)