How to Get a Good Night's Sleep When Living With Incontinence

Patient Expert
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Urinary incontinence can negatively impact your quality of life and is associated with depression, falls, and fractures. Unfortunately, we don’t hear too much about the negative effect urinary incontinence has on sleep, and it is hard to come across much in the way of advice when it comes to improving sleep when living with this condition.

Studies have found that between 20 and 44 percent of women of reproductive age and approximately 75 percent of women over 70 years of age experience at least one void per night (meaning they have to urinate). For men between 20 and 40 years of age, roughly 11 to 35 percent experience at least one void per night. This increases to 69 to 93 percent for men over 70.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, nighttime incontinence and frequent visits to the bathroom can disrupt sleep.

How to reduce the risk of nighttime incontinence

Taking the following steps may help you reduce your nighttime incontinence.

Drink fewer fluids before bed

Try to reduce or eliminate your fluid intake in the evening to reduce the amount of liquid your bladder will need to store overnight. If you find it too difficult to stop drinking fluids in the evening, try restricting yourself to one cup of liquid in the four-hour period before bed.

Avoid trigger foods and drinks

It also pays to be aware of drinks that can irritate your bladder and increase the risk of nighttime incontinence. Although it may help you fall asleep, alcohol disrupts sleep and irritates the bladder. You should also avoid acidic foods, spicy foods, and fruit juices before bed.

Consider bladder training

It has been suggested that bladder training can help treat urinary incontinence and may be more effective than medication. Bladder training is similar to sleep scheduling in that your aim is to follow a regular, predictable schedule. The idea is that your body will soon learn when it is time to void, and this will help reduce episodes of incontinence. The National Association For Continence gives a good overview of bladder training.

Try pelvic floor exercises

Finally, pelvic floor exercises may help to control incontinence — but they need to be done regularly in order to see results.

How to get a better night’s sleep

If you have exhausted all the preventive options, there are still some steps you can take to minimize the disruption that nighttime incontinence causes.

Incontinence pads, underwear, and pants aren’t glamorous, but they could help you sleep through the night. If you’ve tried these products before and they didn’t work for you, it’s worth experimenting with different brands and product lines; they are all a bit different and have varying levels of absorbency (and comfort).

Bed pads are an alternative to incontinence pads. Disposable and washable bed pads are available and have different levels of absorption. When you use bed pads, you may not need to use incontinence underwear — and this by itself may make you feel more comfortable at night.

Finally, try to exercise during the day. Not only does daytime exercise improve sleep, but research also suggests that reducing your body mass index (BMI) may decrease the amount of urine your produce at night.

Medication and the importance of medical advice

Some medications can increase the likelihood of nighttime urination, but it is important that you don’t make any changes to your medication regimen without speaking to your doctor first. Research suggests that some drugs can reduce the likelihood of incontinence, but they may come with their own separate side effects.

If you have not spoken to your doctor about your nighttime incontinence, you should do so at the earliest opportunity. Your doctor will be able to determine if your incontinence is a symptom of another condition, and, if it is, treating that condition may eliminate or reduce nighttime incontinence.

Finally, if you are really struggling with sleep disruption, it is worth drawing attention to the fact that nighttime incontinence has been linked to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Symptoms of OSA can include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Nighttime sweating
  • Abrupt nighttime awakenings
  • Waking with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Mood changes such as irritability or depression

If you recognize any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. OSA can be treated, and this will not only improve your sleep, but it will improve your overall health and may eliminate nighttime incontinence, too.