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The causes of nocturia - or an overactive bladder at night - probably aren’t the first thing on your mind when you’re begrudgingly waking up for the third time to use the bathroom. However, these key facts about this annoying problem might be able to help you sleep more soundly through the night.
Whether you often find yourself asking “what causes nocturia” or you’re not even familiar with the term yet, it’s fair to say that just about anyone who finds themselves waking up to urinate throughout the night would be happy to get to the bottom of things. Nocturia is really just a fancier term for having an overactive bladder at night, and can be caused by a number of different factors, depending on the individual.
Here, we’ll be engaging in a crash course on the causes of nocturia to help equip you with the information you need to help put a stop to constant nighttime bathroom trips. We’ll also look into some commonly touted natural “remedies” that some people may use to try and support stronger urinary health at home!
Before we talk about what causes nocturia, let’s briefly get a bit more specific about what nocturia actually is. At its most basic, nocturia is simply the need to wake up during the night in order to pee. In fact, the technical definition would classify a person waking up to urinate even once per night as experiencing nocturia.
Both men and women may experience an overactive bladder at night, and older adults are the most likely to be affected by nocturia. According to urological surveys, about 50% of people in their 60’s and 80% of those in older age groups are affected.1
The causes of nocturia can be related to underlying conditions, lifestyle and behavioral patterns, or both. To best understand them, let’s break nocturia down into its different types:
Polyuria, known more specifically as global polyuria, simply means that the body is producing too much urine over the course of a 24-hour period: greater than 3,000 mL to be exact. Some causes may include:
Like global polyuria, nocturnal polyuria also describes an excessive production of urine, except only at nighttime rather than throughout the day. Nocturnal polyuria is actually the most common cause of nocturia, accounting for 88% of cases.2 Causes of nocturnal polyuria may include:
Nocturnal Urinary Frequency
Unlike the other two causes of nocturia, nocturnal urinary frequency does not involve a higher amount of urine being produced by the body, but simply a more frequent need to empty the bladder, even for small amounts of urine. This can occur either because the bladder does not fully empty (causing it to fill back up faster), or because the urge to urinate occurs before the bladder even becomes full.
Some reasons for nocturnal urinary frequency are:
Now that we’ve talked about some of the main causes of nocturia, we’ll move on to what some people consider to be natural “remedies” for an overactive bladder at night, while keeping one very important thing in mind.
Many of these causes of nocturia are related to medical conditions, and therefore necessitate a conversation with your doctor. These tips and “remedies” are in no way geared toward treating or curing any medical conditions in any way - they’re simply there to address some of the lifestyle and general urinary health factors associated with experiencing an overactive bladder at night.
Aside from the annoyance of late-night bathroom trips caused by nocturia, an overactive bladder can also have a serious impact on sleep. It’s often cited as a common cause of poor sleep in older adults, which can then lead to impaired daytime function.3
Not including the most important step of talking to your doctor if you believe you experience nocturia, here are some commonly talked about natural methods of support for nocturia that address lifestyle factors and overall urinary wellness:
One of the most obvious answers for how to stop peeing so much at night is also one of the most important. Make sure to stay well-hydrated during the day, but cut down on all fluids during the 2-4 hours leading up to bedtime. This can go a long way in helping to address the issue of excessive urine production at night.
It’s not just about when you drink; what you drink can also be a contributing cause of nocturia. Try cutting out some of the following drinks and foods, which can act as diuretics and bladder irritants:
Some of the most common methods for helping an overactive bladder in general are also useful for dealing with an overactive bladder at night. You can help “retrain” your bladder to have to go at the right times by only urinating at set intervals, and by making sure your bladder is fully empty when you go. This article from Harvard does a great job of explaining the process.
Pelvic floor exercises known as Kegels can also help to strengthen bladder muscles directly. Just consciously contract the same muscles that you feel controlling your urinary flow, ideally for 3 seconds at a time and in sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Natural supplements are no substitute for any medication your doctor may choose to prescribe for nocturia, and they are not intended to treat or cure any of the medical conditions associated with experiencing an overactive bladder at night.
With that being said, certain natural ingredients are often used to help support strong overall urinary health, thereby promoting healthy urinary function:
Dealing with an overactive bladder at night can be an annoying, sometimes even embarrassing, ordeal. But, with a new understanding of the many causes of nocturia, as well as some new ideas for natural “remedies” that support a healthy bladder, you’re now well-equipped to begin on a path toward better urinary health with the help of your healthcare professional.
If you’d like to learn more about urinary wellness, make sure to check out our comprehensive guide to the urinary system as well as our quick list of 5 Facts About Urinary Incontinence and Leaks You Need To Know.