After a long day, you’ve settled down for a comfortable night’s sleep. You’re just drifting off when suddenly you feel a warm wetness between your legs -- something you haven’t felt since you were about 5 years old. You’ve wet the bed.
For the approximately 16% of people over the age of 18 who have an overactive bladder (OAB), this kind of upsetting incident 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.
Urinary incontinence, the involuntary loss of urine, affects an estimated 25 million Americans, mostly women. For most, incontinence is the result of problems controlling the bladder. For people with a type called functional incontinence, however, the problem lies in getting to and using the toilet when the need arises.
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.
“It can disrupt sleep completely, and people can be extremely overtired,” says Luis Sanz, MD, director of urogynecology and pelvic surgery at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, VA.
Even worse, those who are particularly sound sleepers or can’t get out of bed fast enough can wind up with wet sheets.
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep with OAB
“Preparation is everything,” says Melody Denson, MD, a board-certified urologist with the Urology Team in Austin, TX. You might consider sleeping on a towel and keeping a box of baby wipes near the bed in case of accidents, but you can also 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:
o Caffeine, which is a diuretic, which increases urine output
o Citrus juices
o Cranberry juice -- though it is touted as great for bladder health, it is actually an irritant if you have OAB