Is There a Solution for Insomnia Caused by Waking up to Use the Bathroom?

17 answers | Last updated: Nov 06, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Is there any solution for insomnia caused by waking up to use the bathroom and then not being able to go back to sleep?

Expert Answers

Senior Editor Melanie Haiken, who is responsible for's coverage of cancer, general health, and family finance, discovered how important it is to provide accurate, targeted, usable health information to people facing difficult decisions.

Yes, but to find a solution to this sleep problem -- officially known as nocturia -- you'll need to start by identifying and treating the underlying health conditions contributing to it.

First off, it's important to understand that as we get older, our bodies' ability to hold fluids for long periods decreases, thanks to a decline in antidiuretic hormones. So even though we're drinking the same amount, we have to go the bathroom more often. This is why middle-of-the-night bathroom runs become so common as we age. (According to the National Sleep Foundation, 65 percent of older adults have sleep deprivation resulting from waking up frequently to use the bathroom.)

Since our bodies are losing the ability to hold fluids -- and since aging also makes it more difficult to fall back asleep after we wake up -- the best solution to this problem is to try not to wake up in the first place.

Here are strategies that can help relieve pressure on the bladder and prevent other digestive symptoms:

*Don't drink liquids for three hours before bedtime.

*Cut down consumption of coffee and tea, which irritate the bladder.

*Don't eat foods with high liquid content, such as soup or fruit, for dinner or after dinner.

*Don't eat for the three hours before going to sleep if you're prone to heartburn or gastric reflux.

A prescription antidiuretic can cut down on nighttime urination if this is the only problem.

However, it's also possible that a separate health condition is leading to the nocturnal bathroom problem. In men, frequent urination at night is often a sign of prostate trouble. Inflammation of the prostate, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPN), and prostate tumors can all cause this symptom, so call your doctor for a prostate exam and PSA test if nighttime waking to urinate suggests a possible prostate condition.

In women, frequent urination can go hand in hand with urinary issues such as incontinence, overactive bladder, urinary tract infections, or cystitis. So, women, you'll also need to see your doctor for a checkup if you suspect any of these problems.

Urinary tract problems such as overactive bladder can be helped with Kegel exercises -- both men and women can learn these exercises to strengthen the muscles at the neck of the bladder.

Once you're awake, a separate set of issues ensues. You may have developed some habits that work against your return to slumber. Here are some suggestions for getting back to sleep quickly:

*Keep the room dark. If you typically have to get up at least once during the night, keep a small book light or mini flashlight next to your bed and use it to navigate your way to the bathroom. Or put a dim night-light in the bathroom and leave the door cracked, so you can use the sliver of light to find your way there. Whatever you do, don't turn on the overhead light in the bathroom once you're there.

*Don't give in to the temptation to turn on the TV or computer. The idea that watching TV can soothe you back to sleep is a misconception; TV and computers function as stimulants. The light from the screen "resets" your internal clock and makes it harder for you to fall back asleep.

*Don't eat unless you're truly hungry. If you're sure a growling stomach is going to keep you awake, have a small snack. Otherwise, getting your digestive system revved up can keep you awake.

*Keep a pen and paper next to your bed. If you're often kept awake by your mind racing or by the common tendency to worry and make to-do lists in your head, keep a pen or pencil and a small pad of paper by your bed and write down your list. As you put each item down on paper, imagine yourself setting aside that concern. (Again, use a book light; don't turn on the overhead or a bright bedside light to write.)

*Do a simple isolation and relaxation exercise. If your body feels tense once you lie down again, try to relax methodically. Starting with your feet, tense the muscles as hard as you can, then relax completely. Do the same with your calves, thighs, buttocks, hands, arms, and on up. By the time you get to your neck and head, you should have banished much of the tension.

*Use an eye mask and ear plugs if noise and shadows are keeping you awake. Some people find that when they wake in the middle of the night, they're much more sensitive to light and sound than they are in the evening, so they need to take steps to block out as many stimuli as possible.

Waking up to urinate more than once a night can also be one of the indicators for sleep apnea. If the problem persists, ask your doctor to evaluate you for sleep apnea or Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome, a milder breathing issue associated with sleep disorder. It's possible that what's happening is that a breathing problem is waking you up or causing you to sleep lightly, which in turn makes you aware of the need to go to the bathroom. While you feel as if you have a full bladder, you would have been able to sleep through the night if you hadn't awakened in the first place.

Community Answers

Nfcmc answered...

I have found this web site extremely helpful

A fellow caregiver answered...

I think that this is an excellent answer. However, I also think it would be a good idea to be checked by a urologist.

Pushkin answered...

Greetings from New Zealand, My husband and I have a Himalayan Salt Lamp which we run all night and we love it to bits!. Its warm gentle glow is very therapeutic and it is very comforting to see this glow if we wake up during the night to go to the bathroom..and when we scramble back into bed the glow from the lamp is just like being wrapped in a cuddly blanket and we simply slip back into the sleepy time , totally relaxed and comforted and we feel surrounded by God's love and tender care. What more could one need? What is more..we wake up feeling relaxed and refreshed. Love and peace from Jackie. P.S. The lamp is a great meditating toll when night has fallen.

Tiredbutsmiling answered...

I had the same problem w/my father.... he was up almost every hour through the night to go to the bathroom. It cost him dearly as he was exhausted during the day. Checking his labwork, his kidney functioning was slightly down. dr said "it's part of getting old". However, when I addressed this by changing his diet to largely vegan (occasionaly fish only), particularly at dinner, his kidneys settled down and his sleeping is significantly better, he has more energy during the day, and overall is getting back to his old self. We discovered later it is the amount of protein at night.. not necessarily an absence of meat. One meal with tempeh and a whey smoothy sent him back to hourly bathroom visits at night. We are still vegan, with occasional fish, but no oil or dairy (to clear the blood vessels) but just watching the amount of protein he gets in the evening.

Davidd answered...

THANKS, BUT 8 Urologist could NOT help me. NOW what shaoud I do?


Precept answered...

A men's consideration is an herb called Saw Palmetto. Recommended to me by a physician, I have found it to be effective.

This allowing the bathroom time to be done during the daytime, waking hours instead.

Said to have been proven effective for centuries.

Thanks to you others for the other suggesting/comments.

Antaki answered...

My Prostate PSA, touch and ewmaining blood tests are excellent. Açlthough I am diabetic type 2, my A1C test for the last 6 years has been around 5.4% My problem is that I urinate too much ast night and too little during the day. Thank you for your assistance.

Hilly answered...

What would you suggest for women? Everytime I run water I have to race for the bathroom. And other times I can barely make it in time. HELP!!!

Precept answered...

To step a bit further toward the initial waking up for a bathroom visit - for we older guys, the use of Saw Palmetto to increase ease of urination. The effect is improved throughout the day, so effect is continued into night-time.

Various vendors of the Saw Palmetto - some are more selective of contents. The results have been somewhat better for the 'fine-tuneing' of the selected contents.

So, Saw Palmetto does some necessary 'relaxing' then allowing for better 'peeing'.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Hello everyone there . I Am 61, doing Kegel exercise everyday, before going to bed i always drink 250ml of water (with grounded flax seeds which is beside a point) and never have to get up during the night to use washroom. Read more about that exercise , its easy to do and can be done anytime and anywhere.Maybe it will takes a time to build this muscles but it is worth because your reward will be whole night sleeping without going to the washroom. Good luck.

Scmaize answered...

For years, I got up once or twice per night to use the bathroom. I have gotten over it completely by dissolving inositol powder in a little water before bed. (It is a B-vitamin co -factor.) It also helps to relax you for sleep. It takes about a half-tablespoon to keep me from needing to get up, and it's best to start with a smaller amount at first. If you take it during the day, it can cause drowsiness or gas, so definitely stick to small amounts if you use it for relaxation during the day. I can take up to a T. at night, and haven't gotten up at night for a couple of years. Amazing!

Sad and broken answered...

I found that a motion night light works for my husband. I have two in the bedroom, one is stationed on the dresser that sits across from the foot of the bed. It comes on as soon as my husband sits up, and another one sits on another dresser facing as you enter back into the bedroom. The bathroom has another night light that comes on at dusk so it stays on all night long. The motion censor night lights are great. They go off after a couple of minutes so you can get into and out of bed without reaching for a night light. Each motion light cost $10.00 ea and well worth the price.

Chf survivor answered...

Less frequent urination during the day and more often at night may be a symptom of Congestive Heart Failure. If there is also swelling of the feet and/or ankles a physician should be consulted. CHF can be treated and full recovery can be expected if the condition does not continue for a prolonged period.

Jamie r answered...

Thanks for the Saw Palmetto heads up! My husband has DSM II and he gets up to go to the restroom all night. I'll get some for him. I have DSM II also as well as central sleep apnea and multiple sclerosis. Combined I have all kinds of trouble sleeping and staying asleep and also frequent bathroom trips during the day AND night. I have a BiPap machine, but I hate it 'cos it hurts my nose and it aggravates my allergies and I can't really see any relief from the sleep apnea and I have intontinence from the M.S. So.........what to do???? I'm treated with high dosses of steroids for the M.S., so there I go with problems with obesity on top it!!!! Kegel exercises are something I hate to do, but this web site really stresses it, so I'mm going to be more diligent in doing those. This web site is good.

Deeanne2 answered...

I have found that listening to a recorded book relaxes me and takes my mind off my worries so that I fall asleep easily. It;s like reading to a child at bedtime to calm them down. I have to be careful not to choose a thriller or book that will make be stay awake to see what happens. Best is non-fiction and especially history. I also turn it on again when I can't get back to sleep after getting up to help my husband or to urinate myself.

They only difficulty is that you have to go back to where you fell asleep the last time, but you get used to that and it doesn't hurt to listen to some things over. Furthermore, it keeps you from getting bored lying in bed awake

Tomterrific answered...

(see my cure below) For over 5 years I had to get up hourly most nights, capturing 7 cups of urine in 9 hours. Urologists had no solution (as my bladder didn't wake me until it was nearly full, and my prostate didn't stop me from emptying completely), and a nephrologist claimed it was not his problem ("plumbing" he said, over my objections)

When I was tired of getting up hourly, I'd sit up or stand up for a while, and that would slow my kidneys down somewhat. Later I found that a dose of sea salt in water during the night would slow my kidneys for a couple of hours.

FINALLY I'm able to sleep better most nights, and my typical nighttime urine output is only 2.5 to 5 cups. What worked for me was liver cleansing! Apparently when lying down, the kidneys speed up due to liver congestion. A progressive doctor suggested 3 weeks of a liver formula and an adrenal formula (during which I saw some decrease in urine output), followed by the famous liver/gallbladder flush involving olive oil and grapefruit juice. I've just completed my second such flush.

How pleasant to sleep for 2 or more hours between trips to the bathroom!