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Peeing In The Night: What's Normal And What's Not

Holding on is actually good for training your bladder.
There's no need to fear holding.
Getty Images
There's no need to fear holding.

There are few things more irritating than needing to pee at 3am when it's freezing outside of your cosy doona. But is it okay to hold on? And is needing to pee in the middle of the night normal in the first place?

Turns out most of us can go a full night's sleep without getting up to wee.

"Everybody is different, obviously. Though, if you take the normal population, most people do not need to get up to urinate in the middle of the night," Associate Professor Peter Chin, spokesperson for the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand told The Huffington Post Australia.

"On occasion you will get somebody who will need to get up once, or maybe twice, in the night, but then it comes down to whether that's normal for them or not. If you're used to getting up once or twice a night and it doesn't bother you then it's not an issue."

Everyone's weeing habits are different.
Getty Images
Everyone's weeing habits are different.

Where it becomes a possible issue is if there is a change.

"If you've never really gotten up in the night and then you start to get up to go to the bathroom, that may be due to getting older, or it may be a sign that there's something else happening. If it's unusual for you, that's when you should explore the reason [with a doctor]," Chin said.

"There are things that can trigger needing to urinate more, such as diabetes. So if things start to change and you notice you're starting to need to go through the night, and maybe you've put on a little weight or you're eating more sugar, or you've changed your diet, then that may be a sign you need to investigate. It's changes to your body's normal patterns that we look for."

If getting up to pee in the night irritates you, or you struggle to get back to sleep after, you can try switching up when you drink throughout the day.

"Monitoring or changing at what times of day you drink your liquids is a coping mechanism that patients often come to by themselves. We see people not drinking liquids after 5pm, for example, and doing just that is a coping mechanism we use to help children avoid wetting the bed at night. Restricting liquids before bedtime helps to not produce as much urine through the night," Chin said.

Drinking all liquids before the evening can help with bed-wetting in kids, or if adults don't want to get up in the night.
Inti St. Clair
Drinking all liquids before the evening can help with bed-wetting in kids, or if adults don't want to get up in the night.

As for why some of us need to pee in the night, or more frequently in general, it might come down to old habits.

"A lot of times our ideas of what we should be doing with our bladder comes from our mother, or our parents. Often a parent will tell a child to make sure they go to the bathroom before a movie or a car trip, but what's happening is people are going when they don't really need to. If you go when you don't need to you train your bladder not to hold on," Chin said.

"Your bladder is actually a storage organ, it's supposed to store the urine until you are ready to go. If you keep on training your bladder that you will empty it when it's only 150ml or 200ml full, in a way it learns that that's okay. As you age it will then be in a habit of thinking it's full with less urine. So by going to the toilet 'just in case' your bladder never really gets bigger or is able to store urine, and that's part of the issue."

As for how safe it is to hold on, if you're of normal general health there's no need to fear holding.

"Your body is really good at controlling itself. It's extremely difficult for a normal functioning human being to be able to hold on enough for your bladder to rupture. It just doesn't work that way. If you don't go, your bladder will go by itself -- it's an automatic reflex and it would empty at a certain point, or it would be so painful that you'd let it go. There's no way you can hold on for too long. Under normal circumstances I would say it's actually better for you to hold on to train your bladder to hold on better," Chin said.

Learning to hold on can train your bladder.
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Learning to hold on can train your bladder.

While on the topic of liquids, ensuring you are drinking enough isn't about following guidelines you read somewhere. It's about observing your body.

"This idea that we need to drink two to three litres of water a day comes from some matriarch, possibly, but the eight glasses a day rule isn't true. When you think about it, eight glasses is about four litres, which is an awful lot to drink," Chin said.

"Rather than following rules I would say look at the color of your urine. If it's clear, you've drunk enough. If your urine is dark, it doesn't matter how much you've drunk, you need to drink more. If you're out working in the sun you may need close to eight glasses, but if you're inside on the couch on a rainy day you may only need one or one and a half litres. Use the colour of your urine as a guide."

Also, use your body's thirst mechanism to know if you need to drink.

"People in these busy days and lives have learned to suppress their thirst mechanism. Don't ignore it. Instead of getting to the mid afternoon and trying to drink your daily two litres, which when doing that can overloads the kidneys, try to even out your drinks regularly throughout the day."

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