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Urinary Incontinence at Bedtime
More than a third of adults who wake up to go to the bathroom do so at least twice a night. If you're one of them, these tips could help you put your nighttime urinary incontinence issues to bed.
By Dennis Thompson Jr.
Medically Reviewed by Kevin O. Hwang, MD, MPH
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If you frequently lose sleep over urinary incontinence, you’re not alone: According to the National Association for Continence, at least two percent of adults lack control over their bladders while sleeping, and more than a third who wake up to go the bathroom do so at least twice a night. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent these nighttime interruptions.
There are two ways urinary incontinence can strike in the night:
- Adult nocturnal enuresis.This is what is commonly referred to as adult bedwetting. About 1 to 2 in every 100 adults sometimes loses bladder control while sleeping. It can strike any time you are asleep — for example, if you've nodded off during a meeting or on an airplane. Urinary tract infections and stress can cause nocturnal enuresis.
- Nocturia.You wake up frequently with the need to urinate. It can occur at any age, but becomes more common past age 60. Nocturia is associated with many diseases besides urinary incontinence, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Strategies for Dealing With Nighttime Incontinence
There are several ways to head off nighttime urinary incontinence. Try the following tips:
- Limit your intake of fluid either just after dinner or a couple of hours prior to bedtime.
- Reduce your intake of bladder irritants like caffeine and alcohol, especially in the evening.
- Elevate your legs when resting during the afternoon, which will stimulate the flow of fluid in the body. Compression stockings also could help.
- Use bladder training exercises to improve your urinary control. Practice holding on to your urine during the daytime.
- Ask your doctor for medication. Your physician might prescribe a diuretic that you take in the afternoon to reduce fluid levels prior to nighttime, or anticholinergic drugs that relax the bladder and make it easier to hold more urine. The hormone desmopressin also reduces the amount of urine you produce at night.
- Purchase a bedwetting alarm. This device wakes you up when you begin to wet yourself, either with a sound or a vibration. Often these alarms can help train your body to wake you up before you wet the bed.
It could take some time to get a handle on your nighttime urinary incontinence. While you work on that, there are products available to help protect your bed and linens from urine:
- Mattress covers.Plastic covers are a cheap and easy solution, but they can be sweaty and uncomfortable. For a little more money, purchase newer water-repellant fabric covers that breathe and allow your body sweat to evaporate. These covers are also available for pillows, blankets, duvets, and sleeping bags.
- Absorbent briefs and pads.Also known as adult diapers, absorbent underwear can be worn at night to absorb urine from nighttime urinary incontinence. As a backup, you also can place absorbent incontinence pads between you and the mattress, in case any urine leaks from the briefs. These absorbent products are available in washable and disposable form. When purchasing a bed pad, keep in mind that the longer, wider, and thicker it is, the less likely it is to leak.
If you have a problem with urinary incontinence at night, discuss your options with your doctor and experiment until you find a solution that helps you sleep more peacefully.
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