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  • Ann Hollander

Is twice a night too much?


Many older adults complain of having to get up several times in the night to pee. Some of this is a normal part of aging. Our bladder capacity gets smaller, so we need to void more often.

But frequent trips to the toilet can have a serious impact on sleep. Nocturia—the medical name for getting up more than once a night—and insomnia are intimately related. Getting up often understandably leads to fatigue. But your loved one is also at higher risk of depression, falls, and car accidents because of the insomnia.

If the person you care for complains of getting up often in the night, have him or her

  • stop drinking fluids 2–3 hours before bedtime. Kind of obvious, but a good first step.

  • halt caffeine consumption after noon and limit or stop alcohol in the evening. Both drinks have a diuretic effect, stimulating urination.

  • take any prescribed diuretics in the morning. Ask the doctor or pharmacist about optimal timing for "water pills."

  • watch for fluid buildup at ankles. Fluid that gathers at the feet all day gets processed by the kidneys at night because lying down returns it to the upper body. Compression socks during the day and raising the feet a few hours before bed can help.

Suggest your relative keep a log for a week, such as the one offered by the National Association for Continence (nafc.org). You may observe patterns. Plus, it's helpful information for a doctor.

Nocturia can be a symptom of many conditions, from diabetes to sleep apnea or an enlarged prostate. For someone over 65, getting up twice a night is not uncommon. Consult a doctor if it's more often or is disrupting sleep or mood. And definitely seek medical attention if there is burning, blood in the urine, fever, or urgency with small output. This could be a sign of an infection.

Is interrupted sleep becoming an issue?

As the North Shore and Chicago experts in family caregiving, we at Options for Aging know how vexing nocturia can be. And potentially tricky to resolve. There are things we can do to help. (And sometimes it's just easier for your loved one to discuss this with someone who is not a family member.) Give us a call at 847-868-1445.

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