How to Stop Waking Up to Pee

How to stop waking up to pee

We’ve all been there. At least, all of us above the age of 35 have been there. Your sleep hygiene is on point. You’re dimming lights in the evening. You descend every night into a nice, natural snooze. But every night, you wake up 3 hours later with a bloated bladder. 

Frustrating, no?

I’ve always wondered if this isn’t a chicken-and-egg situation. Am I waking up because I have to pee? Or am I only aware that I have to pee because I woke up?

The truth is, waking up once in the middle of the night might not be the worst thing in the world. It might even be good for you!

Either way, let’s get a handle on our insomniac bladders. (Not literally.) Let’s figure out why we wake up to pee, why it might not be so bad, and what you can do to prevent it if it really drives you crazy.

 

Why We Wake Up to Pee

As I’ve discussed previously, when we’re young, our bodies produce boatloads of “anti-diuretic hormone” (ADH) at night. ADH is fun. Basically, it keeps water out of your bladder so you don’t wet the bed.

But when you get older, and you get pretty good at not wetting the bed (some of us, at least), your body produces less and less ADH. That means more water in your bladder. And eventually that means the good ol’ 3AM shuffle to the bathroom (which stodgy doctors call “nocturia”).

Nocturnal. Uria. Nocturia. Get it? Aren’t doctors amazing?

For many people, this process gets more and more pronounced as they age. Some folks in their 60s or 70s tip toe to the bathroom two or three times a night. We’d call that a problem.

But what if you’re, say, 40 years old and only waking up once? Is that a problem? Is it ruining your sleep quality? Does this mean you’re going to be up-and-down all night for the rest of your life?

Not necessarily.

 

Why Waking Up to Pee Isn’t So Bad

Chicken or egg? Egg or chicken?

Are you waking up because your bladder is bursting? Or are you just aware of it because you’ve woken up, and well, you’ve got nothing better to do?

In fact, waking up in the middle of the night may be MORE common that not waking up at all. Virginia Tech historian A. Roger Erkich has compiled over 500 documents from before the industrial revolution (before we had electric light). In each of these documents people discuss “segmented sleeping” as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. [1]

"It's not just the number of references,” Ekirch says. “It is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge." [2]

In fact, most scholars now agree that this is the normal way people slept for, oh, the entirety of homo sapiens’ 300,000 year history on the planet. We’d go to sleep when the sun went down. Wake up for a bit. Maybe eat a little something. Maybe goose the old lady. Then go back to sleep for another few hours before waking up with the sun. It’s only since we invented the light bulb, and people started staying up way past sundown, that we began to sleep in consolidated eight-hour blocks.

As sleep psychologist Gregg Jacobs says: "For most of evolution we slept a certain way. Waking up during the night is part of normal human physiology." [3]

So, if you’re waking up once in the middle of the night. Chances are, it’s not such a big deal. You’re probably just reverting to evolutionary sleep patterns.

But what if you don’t want to wake up at night at all? Or what if you’re waking up two or three times and really need to solve the problem?

Well, you’re in luck.

 

How to Prevent Waking Up to Pee

I’ve got two solutions for you. One is obvious. The other, fascinating. But used in tandem, they’ll almost assuredly keep your bladder snoozing happily

  1. Don’t drink fluids two hours before bed.

Easy, right? Honestly, I’m terrible at this. Sometimes you just really, really want a glass of water in the evening. Or a protein shake. Or a glass of whiskey. Or three.

Either way, avoiding fluids (including sleep drinks) two hours before bed eliminates the nocturnal pee problem for most folks.

For others, however…

  1. SALT!

I’m not kidding. I learned about this from powerlifting legend and all-around genius Stan Efferding. And there’s amazing science to back it up. Low sodium levels are a leading cause of “Syndrome of Inappropriate Antidiuretic Hormone.” [4]

Simply enough, if you don’t eat enough salt, your body can’t produce enough ADH, and BOOM. You’re whizzing all night.

For me, 800-1,000mg of sodium, or approximately half a tablespoon before bed, works like a miracle. In fact, I’m running on 3 months now without a single middle-of-the-night wakeup. And it’s all because of simple salt and avoiding water at night.

If you’re keen to give it a try, I’d recommend starting with a smaller dosage and increasing it night by night. Maybe 400mg or a quarter teaspoon.

I’d also highly recommend buying cheap Sodium Chloride tablets off of Amazon. If you’re anything like me, swallowing a spoonful of salt isn’t exactly the most enjoyable experience.

 

Conclusion

Why do we wake up to pee? Because we’re getting older. It’s as simple as that.

Is it such a big deal? Not really, unless you’re waking up three times a night. (In which case you either need to see a doctor, or quit chugging bottles of water before bed.)

How can you stop waking up to pee? Try 800-1,000mg of salt before bed. It works like a charm for me, and I hope it works for you too.

 

References:

  1. https://www.amazon.com/At-Days-Close-Night-Times/dp/0393329011
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-16964783
  3. https://www.cbtforinsomnia.com/about-us/
  4. https://www.instagram.com/p/CEvDYvolUiK/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link