These days, a good night’s sleep is evasive for a large proportion of us. But especially for those who suffer from an overactive bladder. Being woken up in the middle of the night by a pre-dawn call of nature can be extremely annoying (especially if you’re having an especially good dream), but a new study also warns that it could also be harming your life satisfaction and work performance too.
If you wake up at least twice during the night to urinate, you could have nocturia, a lower urinary tract condition that affects 9.1 million people in Britain. It’s surprisingly common, with consequences that not only negatively impact our working day but also our long-term mental and physical health too. According to new findings from RAND Europe , those who suffer from it are on average two per cent less happy with their lives (similar to those who have conditions such as cardiovascular disease or asthma), have around 1.3 per cent lower engagement at work (likened to those who suffer from kidney disease), and lose around seven days of work a year through being off sick or working less efficiently due to fatigue.
What’s more, it affects a range of different age groups. While it increases with age, it also affects approximately up to one in ten individuals aged 45 and younger. The study also found that women tend to have a higher probability of having it compared to men.
There’s a range of different types of nocturia, among the most common being large amounts of urine produced during the night (called nocturnal polyuria) or a reduced bladder capacity. It is usually treated by medication that reduces the amount of urine produced by the kidneys, or diuretic medication taken late in the afternoon.
The type of treatment received depends on the type of urinary incontinence that you have and the severity of your symptoms. If you’re concerned about anything, it’s best to book in with your doctor, as you may have an underlying condition.
It’s also worth bearing in mind though that there might be a psychological element to it too.
“It is really important to understand that there is a huge mind-bladder connection and the bladder can be very manipulative,” says Alison Allport, Holistic Core Restore® Coach and founder of Fit-Sana. What she’s saying is that we might not actually need to go to the toilet as badly as we think we do and that our pre-dawn or ‘just in case’ dash to the loo could be more the result of habit than anything else.
Physiologically, we get the first desire to go to the toilet when the bladder is only half full, she explains. What many of us do though, is read that as a sign that we need to empty it straight away when in fact, we’ve still got more than enough space to spare.
She flags that postnatal women are especially prone to developing a habit of going to the toilet during the night as a result of constantly being up feeding their baby. “It’s important to train the bladder to last through the night," says Alison. "Just because you’re awake, it doesn’t mean that you need to go to the loo.”
If nighttime toilet trips have become the norm for you, she recommends incorporating the following into your wind-down routine:
“Two hours before going to bed, have your last drink. The kidneys take approximately 90 minutes to process the fluid. Have a wee before you go to bed and you should last that night. You'll know then that everything you have drunk has gone through your system and that any urge to pee is probably psychological.”
She also recommends avoiding common bladder irritants. These include caffeine, coffee, tea, sugar and sugar alternatives, spicy food, carbonated drinks, alcohol, acidic juices and tomato sauces, MSG and surprisingly, cranberry juice. “It paradoxically helps with bladder infections, but also increases symptoms of an overactive bladder and urinary incontinence.”
There are also some useful things that you can do throughout the day to train body and mind to better deal with the effects of urge incontinence. “Ride the wave. Remind your bladder that you’re in control and try not to respond to the first peak of urgency,” Alison says. Distraction and time will help. “Reinforce the mental suggestion that going to the toilet should only happen in an emergency-like state.”
Things that you can do to help the wave subside include doing three to four kegel exercises. This will tighten the area around the urethral sphincter, decreasing the feeling of urgency by sending a message to the central nervous system that now is not the time to go to the toilet. Next, try and relax. “When you panic, your body produces the hormone adrenaline, which actually increases bladder contractions, making that feeling of urgency worse.” Remember to breathe normally and when you’re finally ready to relieve yourself, calmly stand up and walk to the bathroom.
It’s all about getting into the mindset of only emptying your bladder when you need to. It'll take time to see a change though. The more you do it, the easier it will become. “Pelvic floor fitness should be as part of your day as brushing your teeth,” says Alison. "If you're having bladder issues a Holistic Core Restore® Coach near you may be able to help."