Putting off going to the toilet can be very harmful to your bladder.
If you regularly wait to go to the loo you could be weakening the muscles later in life, or more immediately, it could cause a urinary tract infection. Many could be holding it in if they wake at night with the urge to go.
The average adult bladder can hold two cups of urine before it’s considered full, which can take up to 10 hours. The bladder then sends a message to your brain when it is about a quarter full, which gives you a little bit of a grace period if you wake up at night.
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However, if you leave it too long, harmful bacteria can build up which can cause a urinary tract infection. If a UTI is left untreated and the infection spreads, it could turn into life-threatening sepsis. 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, leading to urinary retention where you can’t empty your bladder – even when you’re bursting to go. Founder of Kegel8 Stephanie Taylor offers her advice on how to take back control of your bladder at night;
Monitor your fluid intake before bed
Try and limit the amount of fluid you drink in the afternoon and evening to decrease the amount of urine produced at night. Tea, coffee, sodas and alcohol are known diuretics - substances that promote diuresis, the increased production of urine – so it’s best to avoid these close to bedtime.
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
If you find that you can’t make it through a whole night without your bladder interrupting your sleep, you may need to retrain it. 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. Do this for a few nights in a row, and then start to push back your alarm every couple of days.
By doing so, you’ll gain more control over your bladder and hopefully eventually make it through till morning. But make sure not to set the same alarm for too many nights in a row – this can train your brain to wake you up consistently at that time.
Time when you take diuretic medication
Diuretic medications, otherwise known as water tablets, 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. This reduces blood pressure. Taking diuretics at night will interrupt your sleep more, so take them in the morning or at least six hours before bedtime.
Maintain a healthy weight
Carrying extra weight, especially around your abdominal area, puts pressure on your bladder, meaning you're more likely to wake up during the night to pee. 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.
Do regular Kegel exercises
A weak pelvic floor can lead to excess urination at night. If your pelvic floor muscles are too weak, you will find it difficult to hold urine in which could lead to nocturnal enuresis. Nocturnal enuresis – or adult bedwetting - is where you unintentionally pass urine while you're sleeping, which affects one in 100 adults.
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.