I'm an expert and here's why you should NEVER hold a pee in the night
IT’S a nuisance when your bladder calls for attention in the middle of the night.
But the worst thing you can do is ignore its signals and hold in your pee, experts say.
Stephanie Taylor, founder of pelvic toner product website Kegel8, says the average adult bladder can hold two cups of urine before it’s considered full.
This can take up to 10 hours, so anything you drink in the evening could put stress on the bladder come 3am.
The bladder sends a message to your brain when it is about a quarter full.
Stephanie said: “However, if you leave it too long, harmful bacteria can build up which can cause a urinary tract infection.
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“If a UTI is left untreated and the infection spreads, it could turn into life-threatening sepsis.”
UTIs are agonising, causing pain during urination and a constant urge to go to the toilet. It is treated with antibiotics.
Stephanie continued: “Ignoring your bladder for too long can also reap havoc with your pelvic floor, cause uncomfortable dryness (urogenital atrophy) and incontinence - where you pass urine without meaning to.
“Similarly, holding in your pee too often can cause the muscles in your bladder to lose the ability to contract when you need them to.
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"[This leads] to urinary retention where you can’t empty your bladder – even when you’re bursting to go.”
How to take back control of your bladder at night
While Stephanie urges people to go to for a pee at night when they need to, she also has tips to prevent it entirely.
To avoid having to hold in urine while you sleep, the key is to regain control of your bladder.
There are several ways you can do this, Stephanie said.
Cut back drinks in the evening
Stephanie advised limiting liquids in the evening, especially tea, coffee, sodas and alcohol which are diuretics - substances that increase urination.
She added: “When you lie down, it becomes easier for your circulatory system to work - meaning fluid is absorbed into your blood and filtered through the kidneys, then sent to the bladder as urine.
“This means your bladder fills more quickly when you sleep in bed at night.”
Retrain your bladder
Stephanie said if you can’t make it through the night without your bladder interrupting, it might be time to retrain it.
Bladder retraining involves suppressing the urge to use the toilet because you have an overactive bladder.
Overactive bladder is where a person regularly gets a sudden and compelling need or desire to pass urine.
Bladder retraining is usually done with a doctor and includes techniques to “put off” going to the toilet when you feel the urge to go, first by a couple of minutes before building up to 10 minutes or more.
At night time, Stephanie says you should go for a pee if you need one.
But to prevent this, she said: “Make sure you empty your bladder before bed and then set yourself an alarm for an hour before you tend to wake up needing to pee.
“If you have a habit of waking up during the night to pee, at say, 3am, set the alarm an hour before you tend to wake up for a couple of nights in a row.
"Then push it back an hour every couple of nights to 4, 5 and so on, until morning. [This] will eventually retrain your body’s internal clock.
"However, for this to be successful, you must follow other steps such as stopping drinking fluids before bed, allowing your body to adjust and your brain to stop thinking that you need to empty your bladder at a set time during the night.
"But remember, all good things take time, and there’s no written rule as to how long it may be before you sleep through the night (especially if you’ve been getting up at the same time for years) - so be patient.”
Time when you take diuretic medication
Diuretic medications, otherwise known as water tablets, are a medication taken by some people, including those with high blood pressure.
They are designed to increase urine production by helping rid your body of salt (sodium) and water, decreasing the amount of fluid flowing through your veins and arteries, and reducing blood pressure.
But Stephanie said taking diuretics at night will interrupt your sleep more, so take them in the morning or at least six hours before bedtime.
Stephanie said carrying extra weight, especially around your abdominal area, puts pressure on your bladder.
Not only that, but this pressure can also weaken or damage the pelvic floor, resulting in urinary incontinence.
By maintaining a healthy weight or losing excess weight, you can take the pressure off your bladder, giving yourself a better chance of a good night’s sleep.
Exercise those pelvic floor muscles
Holding in your pee can cause pelvic floor muscles to weaken, which, ironically, makes it harder for you to keep your pee in.
Weak pelvic floor muscles only lead to more frequent night-time peeing, as you find it harder to avoid going to the toilet.
But even worse, it may cause nocturnal enuresis (adult bedwetting), says Stephanie. This is relatively common, affecting one in 100 adults.
Stephanie said: “Strengthening your pelvic floor can increase your bladder control, preventing bedwetting episodes and allowing you to get to the bathroom in time.
“If you find it hard to perform manual pelvic floor exercises, try an electronic toner, which allows you to see and feel when your muscles are working correctly.”
When is night time peeing the sign of something serious?
Nocturia is when you need to wake up to pass urine during the night.
It is one of the leading causes of a poor night’s sleep, estimated to affect 8.63 million people in the UK alone.
While it’s easy to shrug off as a common and normal problem (which most of the time, it is), there are some occasions when night-time peeing is a symptom of something serious.
It includes an enlarged prostate, which can also cause men to have urinary retention and pain in the stomach.
One of the more sinister reasons for urinating at night is prostate cancer, which one in eight men will get a diagnosis of in their lifetime.
Frequent peeing, especially at night, could also be a symptom of diabetes, of which type 2 is the most common form.
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If you’re going more often than what is normal for you, this could indicate something is wrong and you should see a doctor, experts say.
Other triggers of night-time peeing include caffeine, alcohol and smoking, while anxiety or stress may cause you to think you need to urinate even if you don’t.