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Frequent Urination At Night (Nocturia)

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Updated December 28, 2009

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

If you are waking up at night with frequent urination, this is a sign of diminished capacity to hold your urine, or what is referred to technically as "nocturia." This symptom has many potential causes, from beverage and diet consumption to a sign you may be pregnant. In early pregnancy, women often feel the need to urinate at night because of rising progesterone levels. Frequent urination is a symptom that you should bring to the attention of your doctor.

Lifestyle Causes

Drinking caffeine, tea, or alcohol beverages late in the day may contribute to a need to urinate during the night. For example, if you drink a lot of fluid in the evening, you may feel the urge to urinate which may awaken you from sleep. If you lay off those fluids, you may eliminate the problem.

Medications

Some medications may affect your bladder, increasing the need to urinate. For example, diuretics and cold medicines may lead to more frequent urination at night.

Common Risk Factors for Frequent Urination

The most commonly associated risk factors for developing frequent urination at night are:

  • Getting older. As people age, they experience a more frequent need to urinate.
  • Bladder prolapse and pelvic organ prolapse in women, particularly after pregnancy, put additional pressure on the urinary tract, making women wake up during the night to urinate.
  • Interstitial cystitis and radiation cystitis can make it difficult for your bladder to function normally because your bladder is inflamed.
  • Prostate problems, in men, can make it harder to hold urine.
  • Among kids frequent urination at night can be a sign of a urinary tract infection or juvenile diabetes. Girls not wiping correctly can develop inflammation in the urinary tract area. In boys, an infection near the tip of the penis may lead to more frequent urination.

Acute Causes of Frequent Urination at Night

Other reasons that you might have a pressing urge to urinate that awakens you include:

  • An acute and severe urinary tract infection
  • Bladder stones lodged in the urinary tract causing a blockage, usually in the ureters or bladder

Chronic Diseases Affecting Urination at Night

Patients with congestive heart failure may have swelling in their legs and ankles during the day. Upon laying down to sleep, the fluid is redistributed and the kidneys produce more urine. Heart disease, vascular disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure, restless leg syndrome, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and sleep apneaalso often result in frequent urination at night.

Sources

McAninch JW. Symptoms of disorders of the urinary tract. In: Tanagho EA, McAninch JW. Smith's General Urology. 17th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008.

Your Personal Guide to Bladder Health. National Association for Continence, 2001.

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