Nothing ruins a good night’s sleep more than getting up multiple times to empty your bladder. Often those millions of American men and women are exhausted in the morning because their sleep was interrupted to many times. Now there’s a few steps you can take to tame that overactive bladder.
For the approximately 16% of people over the age of 18 who have an overactive bladder (OAB), getting up two or more times a night can become a regular occurrence. Even if they make it to the bathroom in time, they wake up so often to urinate that they aren’t getting a good night’s sleep.
Generally, the amount of urine in our bodies decreases and becomes more concentrated at night, so we can sleep six or eight hours without having to get up to use the bathroom more than once. But many people with OAB have nocturia, the need to urinate several times a night, which interrupts their sleep cycles.
Even worse, there are some men and women who are particularly sound sleepers or can’t get out of bed fast enough can wind up with wet sheets.
Take these steps to prevent accidents from happening:
Limit your fluid intake before bedtime. Try not to drink any liquids after 5 p.m. or 6 p.m.
Avoid foods and beverages that can irritate your bladder. If you can’t cut them out entirely, skip them in the hours before bedtime to help prevent nocturia. That includes:
Caffeine, which is a diuretic, which increases urine output
Cranberry juice — though it is touted as great for bladder health, it is actually an irritant if you have OAB
Spicy foods, like curries
Acidic foods, such as tomatoes and tomato sauces
Double-void before bed or urinate twice, right before bed. For example, you can go to the bathroom, then brush your teeth and go through the rest of your bedtime routine. Then, just before you’re about to lie down — even if you don’t feel like you have to go — try to urinate and see if you can squeeze out another tablespoon or so.
Do Kegel exercises. Done regularly, they help control an overactive bladder. They will trigger a reflex mechanism to relax the bladder. If you feel a tremendous urge to urinate, doing a Kegel before you run to the bathroom will help settle down the bladder spasm and help you hold it until you get there.
Kegels simply involve contracting and releasing the muscles around the opening of your urethra, just as you do when going to the bathroom. You can learn what a Kegel exercise feels like by starting, then stopping, your urine stream. Start with three sets of 8-12 contractions. Hold them for six to 10 seconds each and perform these three to four times per week.
OAB and Your Sex Life
OAB can interfere with sexual intimacy another important activity that takes place in the bed. There’s nothing that can shut down an intimate moment faster than realizing you’ve lost control of your bladder during sexual intimacy — something that happens for many people with OAB. About 15% of my patients report having incontinence during sex.
When you’re being intimate, you’re used to secretions and moistness, but the thought that it’s actually urine leakage is really upsetting and uncomfortable. Usually it’s the female patient who has the leakage, and it’s actually more bothersome for her than for her partner.
Tips for Getting Your Groove Back
There are some things you can do to ward off discomfort or embarrassment during sex.
Talk about it. First, know that your partner will probably be a lot more understanding than you expect. Then bring it up before you have intercourse. Plan and prepare for sex, just as you do for bedtime. Double-void, cut back on fluids, and avoid foods and beverages that are likely to irritate your bladder. This means passing up that romantic glass of wine to get you in the mood.
Keep up the Kegels. Doing these several times a day — and even during intercourse — will help prevent urine leakage during sex.
All of these approaches can help you manage your overactive bladder at night, letting you get a better night’s sleep and have a more active and satisfying sex life.
Bottom Line: An overactive bladder can wreck havoc with sleep, your sex life, and your entire life. I suggest you try these few self-help ideas. If they do not resolve the problem, then contact your doctor, urologist or gynecologist. Help is available. You don’t have to be embarrassed and tired because your overactive bladder is controlling your life.
This article has been modified from “Putting an Overactive Bladder to Bed-Insights for Good Sleep and Good Sex”
By Gina Shaw