Getting Up in the Night with OAB: Why Your Sleep Matters

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

Overactive bladder (OAB) affects [up to 17 percent of the adult population] in the United States. Symptoms typically include the frequent urge to urinate, frequent urination, and incontinence.

How overactive bladder affects sleep

Nocturia is commonly associated with OAB and is defined as the need to get out of bed to urinate at least twice during the night.

The condition has been found to affect about [one in three healthy adults over the age of 30]. In comparison, interrupted sleep due to the need to urinate during the night has been found to affect more than half of individuals with OAB.

The effect of frequent nighttime awakenings on health

Two-thirds of individuals over the age of 50 identified nocturia as the most frequent cause of disturbed sleep and although it becomes more common as we age, younger people are affected, too.

[Research has also found nocturia to have a negative effect on quality of life that's similar to type 2 diabetes, and a greater negative impact than hypertension.

[Waking during the night to urinate has a negative effect on the most restorative stage of sleep] and, in the opinion of those researchers, this could have long-term consequences on overall health and well-being.

Long-term sleep disruption has been linked to a number of health issues. In addition to affecting overall quality of life, it’s been linked to:

How to improve sleep and OAB symptoms

  • Some anticholinergic drugs used to treat overactive bladder may hinder sleep. In a 2005 study, [German researchers found] that oxybutynin and tolterodine significantly reduced REM sleep, although the effect of trospium chloride on REM sleep was similar to that of a placebo.

  • [Desmopressin has been identified] as an effective treatment for nocturia patients; the drug reduces the number of trips to the bathroom during the night and increases sleep duration as a result. In fact, [one study found] that 27 percent of patients who took desmopressin got more than five hours of uninterrupted sleep compared to just nine percent of those who took a placebo.

  • Exercise has already been found to improve sleep disturbances such as insomnia — and it may also improve nocturia symptoms. [One study found]that walking rapidly for 30 minutes or more every evening for eight weeks significantly reduced the number of nighttime awakenings to use the bathroom. Exercise also reduced daytime urinary frequency, and two-thirds of participants reported enjoying deeper sleep compared to before they exercised.

  • Sleep disordered breathing has also been associated with nocturia — so this may be an avenue worth investigating. One study found that as the severity of sleep disordered breathing increased, so did urination frequency. CPAP therapy has been found to improve the symptoms of overactive bladder in those suffering from obstructive sleep apnea.

  • Finally, avoiding or significantly [reducing liquid intake in the evening] may help, as could restricting caffeine and alcohol consumption.

**If your sleep is suffering due to an overactive bladder, speak with your doctor. Addressing the symptoms of an overactive bladder can improve sleep, and taking steps to improve your sleep can also improve the symptoms of OAB.

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free sleep training for insomnia. His online course uses CBT techniques to teach participants how to sleep without relying on sleeping pills. More than 4,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 97 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.