Nocturia (Frequent Night Urination): What You Need To Know

By Latifa deGraft-Johnson, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
June 21, 2022

Is your sleep disturbed by trips to the bathroom? If you notice you wake up more than once per night to urinate, you may have nocturia (frequent night urination). 

Besides disturbing a good night’s rest, nocturia can sometimes be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

This article will cover the types and causes of nocturia, how to diagnose and treat it, and methods for preventing it.

What is Nocturia (Frequent Night Urination)?

Nocturia is frequent urination at night.

If you get out of bed to go to the bathroom more than once per night, you’re not alone. Nocturia is estimated to affect more than 2 in 3 adults over the age of 40.

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Types

There are three types of nocturia:

  1. Nocturnal polyuria: You produce an excessive amount of urine during the night
  1. Bladder storage problems: Your bladder has trouble storing or releasing urine
  1. Mixed nocturia: A combination of both types of nocturia

Causes

A variety of things can lead to nocturia. Some people experience nocturia caused by simple habits that are easy to change.

While for others, nocturia may indicate a more serious underlying health issue.

Here are some common causes of nocturia.

Polyuria

Polyuria is when your body makes too much urine in a 24-hour period, and the excess can cause you to wake up for bathroom trips instead of sleeping.

It has many causes, such as drinking too much water, eating food that’s high in water content, being pregnant, or having a kidney infection.

Congestive Heart Failure (CHD)

If you have congestive heart failure, the heart is not pumping as effectively, so you can get fluid buildup in the legs and ankles.

The swelling usually starts to decrease when you lie down at night.

Your body then produces more urine to get rid of the extra fluid.

Edema

Edema means swelling or an accumulation of fluid in the body.

It can happen for various reasons, and it most often affects the legs and ankles.

At night, the excess fluid starts to drain out of the lower limbs and gets converted to urine, which can wake you up at night.

Sleep Disorders

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that causes people to stop breathing for short periods of time while sleeping.

People with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to have nocturia.

Diabetes

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, which presents with high blood sugar levels, the kidneys work harder to filter and cleanse the blood.

This can cause an increase in urine production and a need to urinate more often, even when you’re trying to sleep.

Gestational diabetes, or diabetes while pregnant, tends to cause fluid imbalances that lead to more frequent urination.

A less common type of diabetes, called diabetes insipidus, doesn’t involve blood sugar.

Diabetes insipidus causes you to have an imbalance of fluids in the body and, as a result, increases the chances of nocturia.

Bladder Problems

If you have a sudden and uncontrollable urge to urinate, you may have overactive bladder syndrome.

This condition can lead to embarrassing leaks, and it can significantly reduce your quality of life.

Nocturia is one of the most common symptoms of overactive bladder syndrome, often leading to interrupted sleep.

Sometimes people have the urge to urinate before their bladder fills up completely. Possible causes include bladder spasms or an infection of the bladder or urinary tract.

Another bladder issue is the inability to completely empty your bladder when you urinate, causing you to need to urinate more often.

Possible causes are prostate enlargement or bladder obstruction, where there’s a blockage preventing the flow of urine.

Excessive Caffeine

Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it stimulates the kidneys and causes them to produce more urine.

If you drink too much caffeine, especially close to bedtime, you’re more likely to wake up with the urge to pee.

Too Much Fluid Before Bed

Drinking too much fluid close to bedtime is a common culprit of nocturia.

It’s best to avoid alcohol and caffeine before attempting to sleep because they’re diuretics, which means they cause your body to produce more urine.

Excessive Sodium Intake

Too much salt in your diet might cause you to urinate more frequently.

This is because salt causes the body to retain fluid. When you lie down to sleep, you will likely get right back up to go to the bathroom.

Certain Medications

Some medications have side effects that cause you to urinate more frequently.

Examples include:

  • Diuretics, such as bumetanide (Bumex), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide), and spironolactone (Aldactone)
  • Demeclocycline (Declomycin), an antibiotic
  • Lithium (Lithobid), for mood or bipolar disorder
  • Excessive vitamin D doses

Risk Factors

As we get older, more frequent urination at night is common.

Risk factors can increase the chances of having nocturia, including:

Diagnosis

To diagnose nocturia, your medical provider will perform a medical exam.

They’ll ask you questions about your symptoms and may test your urine for signs of infection or other problems. 

If you have symptoms – like pain, fatigue, or swelling in your legs – there may be another underlying cause of your nocturia, and your medical provider may order more tests. 

It helps to record a diary to share with your provider. Your diary should record the amount of fluids you drink, the time you drink them, and how often you get up to use the bathroom at night.

You’ll also want to give your medical provider a list of medications you take.

Treatment

If you think you might have nocturia, your medical provider will evaluate the underlying cause to determine the treatment.

Depending on the cause, they may prescribe medications or treatments for your symptoms.

For example, if you’re diagnosed with a urinary tract or bladder infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics.

It’s possible your medical provider may recommend you see a specialist.

For instance, if you have signs of obstructive sleep apnea, you may be referred to a sleep specialist or a pulmonologist (lung doctor). Or, if the cause is diabetes, they may refer you to an endocrinologist. 

Treatment is individualized, so it’s important to see your medical provider to determine the cause and treatment for your needs.

Prevention

Regardless of the cause, there are some steps you can take to help reduce and prevent nocturia symptoms.

Consider the following to get a better night’s sleep:

  • Minimize how much fluid you drink as you get close to bedtime – especially alcohol and caffeine.
  • Keep your legs elevated and wear long compression socks to minimize swelling in the legs and ankles.
  • Take afternoon naps to let excess fluid from your legs be absorbed into your bloodstream. This gives your body the chance to get rid of excess fluid through urination, well before it’s time for bed.
  • If you take medications such as diuretics that cause you to urinate more often, ask your doctor if you can take your medications earlier in the day.
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When to See a Medical Provider

Sometimes nocturia can be managed with a simple action like reducing fluid intake before bedtime. 

See a medical provider if: 

  • Frequent urination is disturbing your sleep
  • Nocturia seems to be getting worse
  • You have any pain with urination
  • You have other symptoms like fatigue, fever, swelling, or shortness of breath

How K Health Can Help

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Fix Nocturia?
Nocturia can be caused by different factors depending on the person. One of the simplest ways to fix it is to limit your fluid intake before bedtime. If you have nocturia because of another underlying health condition, see a medical provider to determine the cause and develop a treatment plan.
How Many Times is Considered Nocturia?
Nocturia is defined as the need to wake up one or more times per night to urinate.
How Many Times is Normal to Urinate at Night?
The body normally makes less urine at night, and people without nocturia are usually able to make it through a full night’s sleep without needing to use the bathroom. Unless you have nocturia, it’s not normal to urinate at night.
Is Nocturia a Serious Condition?
Nocturia is common, especially as we get older. It can be easily managed, but reach out to your medical provider if it worsens or disturbs your sleep. In some cases, nocturia could be a sign of a serious condition like an infection, diabetes, or a heart problem. Reach out to your medical provider if you have any symptoms like: Fatigue Fever Pain Shortness of breath Swelling Increased thirst, hunger, or urination Other changes in your health

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Latifa deGraft-Johnson, MD

Dr. Latifa deGraft-Johnson is a board-certified family medicine physician with 20 years of experience. She received her bachelor's degree from St. Louis University, her medical degree from Ross University, and completed her family medicine residency at the University of Florida. Her passion is in preventative medicine and empowering her patients with knowledge.