Proudly New Zealand Owned

How to sleep all night without getting up to go to the toilet

By David Coory

If you have to get up during the night for a pee, you’re not alone – millions of people worldwide have this annoying problem, called Nocturia. Nocturia is not just annoying, but is downright dangerous for your health. Should you be aged or unsteady on your feet, it’s easy to have a fall when dark and you’re groggy from sleep. More importantly it severely interferes with health-promoting sleep.

It’s during long periods of unbroken sleep that our body heals itself.

When a Health House customer requests nutritional advice from me for a long-standing health problem, I always ask them “How are you sleeping?” Everytime the answer is “Not very well” or words to that effect. The fact is, no matter what treatment or health supplement we take, to try to heal a long-standing health problem, it just doesn’t happen until we start sleeping properly. Sleep is number one if we want to enjoy optimum health.

The main cause of Nocturia

Nocturia is medically defined as having to get up two or more times a night to pee, but even once a night is abnormal. In a 24-hour period we shouldn’t need to urinate more than about six times.

When we fall asleep normally, our body passes quickly into a deep stage of sleep, due to the effect of the sleep hormone melatonin and at the same time our kidneys receive the message to slow down the amount of urine they process to send to the bladder.

If we go to bed stressed, worried, hyped up by caffeine, indulging in lively conversation or arguing, stimulating reading, late night computer activity or traumatic TV, we over-ride the effect of melatonin and fail to enter this deep sleep stage –instead we enter a restless, lighter stage.

This restless, lighter stage of sleep can also be caused by too much light in the bedroom, a restless partner, eating food too close to bedtime (i.e. after 7pm), or taking a high dose of vitamin B6 during the day (over 20 mg).

Unless we reach a deep, melatonin-induced stage of sleep, our kidneys fail to get the signal to slow down, and continue to operate at normal daytime rates. So within a few hours, our bladder is full and the discomfort wakes us, and up we get.

When we get back to bed, it’s even more difficult to relax into a deep sleep, due to a diminished supply of melatonin and so the cycle can continue every few hours during the night.

The best solution is to reach a deep stage of sleep as soon as possible after turning the lights out, when our melatonin is at its peak. Melatonin is made by the body from the hormone serotonin – 5-HTP can help if your body is lacking serotonin. In a nutshell, anxiety in all its many forms is the main cause of Nocturia.

Anxiety can also increase the rate at which our kidneys produce urine during the daytime – we’ve probably all experienced the ‘nervous pee’ syndrome when worried about something.

How to avoid anxiety

Excessive anxiety can be aggravated by (or caused by) lack of the following diet minerals: magnesium, selenium, zinc, calcium and manganese. Also lack of vitamin D and the B vitamins – thiamine (B1), niacin (B3) and pyridoxine (B6), however as mentioned above, too much B6 can have the opposite effect and cause anxiety and poor sleep.

Prostate enlargement and bladder infections

An enlarged prostate is often blamed for frequent urination in men. An enlarged prostate can make urination slow or difficult, but has little to do with the urge to urinate frequently provided the bladder is fully emptied, which normally is the case – underlying anxiety is the principle cause. However there have been reports of frequent male urination after eating food fried in Teflon coated frying pans.

A bladder infection will also cause very frequent urination. One natural cure is cranberries or blueberries taken regularly throughout the day. Alkaline baking soda can also help.

Synthetic sheets, blankets and covers

Another lesser-known cause of disturbed or light sleep is synthetic bedding. Some years ago my brother and I were on an overseas trip in the Middle East and had booked into a Jerusalem hotel for several nights. However after retiring to bed for the first night, neither my brother nor I could get to sleep. We were both restless and I felt an electric frizziness (best word I can think of) over the parts of my body covered by the blankets.

As to be expected, due to lack of sleep, soon after midnight I felt the need to go to the toilet to urinate. When I returned, I pulled back the blankets and examined them. The main blanket was made of heavy nylon or polyester about 3/16” (5mm) thick. I had experienced frizzy feelings before with synthetic bedding and suspected this blanket was the cause of our sleep difficulties, so I removed it entirely, leaving just the sheet and lighter top cover that seemed to be cotton.

When I slid back into bed the frizziness had entirely disappeared. So my brother Noel removed the same blanket from his bed – we then fell peacefully off to sleep and had no further sleeping problems the length of our stay.

From my past experience, neither part cotton/polyester sheets, wool blankets, nor the material the mattress is made of, seem to cause any problems.

My wife Marie and I now only use cotton duvets and sheets.