5 reasons for an overactive bladder at night



Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
Ask Emma


28 February 2020

5 reasons for an overactive bladder at night

Have you found yourself waking up in the night to go to the toilet more often than usual? Is this disrupting your routine and causing you concern? Also known as nocturia, this can happen for a few reasons, including:

  • Cystitis
  • Dehydration
  • Caffeine
  • Menopause
  • Prostate issues.

While some of these are more common (like drinking too much coffee in the afternoon), others could indicate that there is an underlying health issue that should be checked by your doctor.

1. Cystitis

Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder which is often caused by an infection of the bladder. It is more common in women and can be linked to constipation, using tampons/diaphragms and wiping back to front after using the toilet. All of these are potential ways for unwanted bacteria to find their way into the urinary tract and bladder, where they cause unwanted symptoms like:

  • A strong urge to urinate frequently
  • Passing small amounts of urine frequently
  • A burning sensation when passing urine.

If you are suffering from cystitis, this may be the reason that you find yourself getting up to pee throughout the night. You might be less likely to notice how often you need to empty your bladder during the day, but it may seem more pronounced during the night because it affects your sleep quality and how refreshed you feel the next morning.

What's more, if you are aware that you have an infection, you might be (rightly!) drinking more water to flush out unfriendly bacteria and dilute your urine to reduce the burning sensation when you pee.

As I say, this is the right thing to do! But, if you're waking up in the night to use the bathroom, try to drink more water during the day and reduce your intake of liquids in the evening. Starting your day with a large glass of fresh water will help you get back on track the next morning and help fight dehydration.


2. Dehydration

If you have become more health conscious recently and have started to drink more water when your body isn't used to it, you may take some time to adjust. You could find yourself waking up in the night to empty your bladder because your kidneys are getting used to processing higher volumes of liquid.

If you are looking to increase your water intake, try adding in a little more water each day rather than all at once. Time it well, too – drink lots in the morning and afternoon, then slow things down in the evening and stop drinking a couple of hours before bed.

After a week or two, you should get used to drinking more and it won't put so much pressure on your bladder.

3. Caffeine

As you may be aware, drinking lots of caffeinated drinks like coffee, teas and energy drinks can also have an effect on your bladder and how often you need to pee.

Caffeine can irritate the bladder and have a diuretic effect, meaning you may have to pee more often during the day, as well as through the night. This is especially true if you consume these drinks late in the afternoon and into the evening.

Cutting back on caffeine is a good idea if you are struggling to make it through the night without having to empty your bladder. Reducing how much caffeine you drink can also help to support your health in other ways, such as bettering your sleep overall, helping to control cravings and avoiding crashes in energy.

4. Menopause

As you age, you are likely to have to empty your bladder more often. For women, this can be due to the menopause which causes oestrogen levels to fluctuate before dropping for good.

Oestrogen has many roles within the body, one of which is keeping the urinary tract and vaginal tissues elastic and sufficiently lubricated. As levels of this hormone fall later on in women's lives, they become more prone to a weakened bladder that's more easily irritated, resulting in the need to urinate more often. This can also impact how often they need to get up in the night.

As we know, this is also a common sign of cystitis, and it's important to note that menopause actually makes you more prone to developing this condition. Luckily, improving your water intake and reducing caffeine will help with both issues. You might find our Menopause Hub useful for coping with symptoms like these.

It's important to speak with your doctor if you experience symptoms like these, just in case there is an infection at play.

5. Prostate issues

Men are also more likely to experience nocturia and frequent urination as they age. However, men are less likely to experience infections like cystitis, so these symptoms could indicate an underlying issue.

An enlarged prostate can put pressure on the bladder and cause symptoms like:

  • The frequent/urgent need to urinate
  • Waking up to pee during the night
  • Inability to empty the bladder fully.

For this reason, if you notice a change in your urinary habits during the night, or if your husband or partner complains of these issues, it's worth taking a trip to the doctor to rule out any conditions such as an enlarged prostate.

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Did you know?

Cystitis is sometimes known as ‘honeymoon cystitis’. Why? Well, during sex, bacteria can spread from the perineum to the urethral opening. The risk of developing cystitis is therefore increased depending on the frequency you have intercourse (sorry honeymooners!).

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