People, do you find it difficult to get up a couple of times a night to pee? If so, you are not alone. Tens of millions of people find that nighttime urination (nocturia) is a challenge. For one thing, it wakes you up and makes it harder to go back to sleep. For another, it could be deadly.
Again, what is nocturia? Nocturia, or nocturnal polyuria, is the medical term for excessive urination at night. During sleep time, your body produces less urine that is more concentrated. This means that most people don’t need to wake up during the night to urinate and can sleep uninterrupted for 6 to 8 hours. If you need to wake up two times or more per night to urinate, you may have nocturia. Besides being disruptive to your sleep, nocturia can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
When you are groggy from sleep, making your way to the bathroom can be treacherous, especially if you are a little unsteady on your feet. If you are take sleeping pills, including “PM” pain relievers, it can be even worse. A fall can lead to a fracture and that is risky business. According to experts writing in Geriatric Orthopaedic Surgery & Rehabilitation (Sept. 2010):
“Hip fractures are associated with significant morbidity, mortality, loss of independence, and financial burden. In usual care, the reported 1-year mortality after sustaining a hip fracture has been estimated to be 14% to 58%. The relative risk of mortality in the elderly patient population increases 4% per year. The first year after a hip fracture appears to be the most critical time. A recent meta-analysis revealed that women sustaining a hip fracture had a 5-fold increase and men almost an 8-fold increase in relative likelihood of death within the first 3 months as compared with age- and sex-matched controls.”
Nighttime Urination and Increased Risk of Death
It almost seems like a tabloid headline (“Association of Nocturia and Mortality”), but that is the title of a study in the Journal of Urology (Feb., 2011). The research revealed that:
“Nocturia is a strong predictor of mortality, more so in younger men and women than in the elderly, with a dose-response pattern in increased mortality risk with increasing number of voiding episodes nightly.”
In this study nocturia was defined as having to get up two or more times a night to pee.
A more recent study published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice (Nov. 2017) notes:
“Nocturia is defined as the need to void ≥1 time during the sleeping period of the night. Clinically relevant nocturia (≥2 voids per night) affects 2%-18% of those aged 20-40 years, rising to 28%-62% for those aged 70-80 years. Consequences include the following: lowered quality of life; falls and fractures; reduced work productivity; depression; and increased mortality. Nocturia-related hip fractures alone cost approximately €1 billion in the EU and $1.5 billion in the USA in 2014.”
Now please do not panic if your nighttime urination frequency is two or three times a night. The research does not suggest you are at immediate risk of dying. Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning to your healthcare professional if you are getting up more than two times a night to pee. There may be an underlying medical condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated appropriately.
Why Does Nighttime Urination Increase Mortality?
The investigators hypothesize that one reason people may have higher mortality (besides falling) could be sleep disruption. Kidney function might be another factor. Whatever the reason, if we could reduce nighttime urination through a non-toxic home remedy it might be beneficial.
Bedtime Raisins Reduce Bathroom Visits:
Q. Thank you for writing about eating raisins at bedtime to reduce bathroom visits. I am 84 and for many years I had to get up every hour or two.
Now I take two spoonfuls of raisins (I don’t count them) and get at least six hours sleep. If I need to, I repeat the procedure and sleep another four hours. I told my doctor not to laugh. He said he doesn’t laugh at anything that works.
A. We first heard about this remedy nearly a year and a half ago. A reader wrote:
“I usually get up several times during the night to urinate. I have noticed that when I eat raisins just before I go to bed, I don’t need to get up as often, if at all.”
We could find no explanation, but others, like you, have found this tip helpful.
Other Stories of Raisins vs. Nighttime Urination:
William in Phoenix shared this story:
“After a suggestion from a friend to try ‘Drunken Raisins’ as a remedy for arthritis I began to eat 10 ‘drunken raisins’ each morning & 10 in the evening. I could not tell any immediate help but I thought it was easing the arthritis pain somewhat.
“Several weeks went by & someone quoted from your newsletter that raisins before going to bed may avoid the need to get up during the night to urinate as often.
“I had been on a new bladder pill for a couple of years & had recently gotten off this bladder pill (Myrbetriq) because it was not on my new 2015 insurance formulary.
“As I was told of the info in your newsletter about eating raisins to help with overactive bladder urgency, I thought; ‘I don’t think I need a bladder pill any longer’ and then I realized I was already taking raisins in the ‘drunken’ form. (I will leave the subject of gin-soaked raisins for you to explain in your newsletter.)
“I now realize my newfound successful remedy has to be the raisins that have taken the place of the Myrbetriq. As I charted my urinary habits and recorded the feel of urgency I decided to use 10 raisins 3 x a day with the last dose taken just before retiring for the night. I sleep all night through but awaken about 6 am with a need to urinate but not an urgency. I am quite positive the raisins are doing as good a job as the medicine I was taking.”
Bell in Dublin, Ireland discovered a downside to the raisins:
“I was taking raisins because I was getting up 4 to 5 times a night to go to bathroom. It helped after taking them only once, but the downside of taken them was that I put on 4 lbs, so I had to stop.
“I put that weight on in 2 weeks so I am back to getting up to go to bathroom 4 times a night. I wish there was something to take that would not make me put on weight.”
Eating a handful of raisins every night could add pounds over time. It may be necessary to compensate by cutting back on dessert or increasing activity during the day.
Terry in North Olmsted, Ohio appreciates raisins:
“I have read the comments on raisins and nighttime urination. I am a 68-year-old man in good health, but I have been getting up sometimes 2 – 3 times a night with a need to pee.
“I have been taking powdered magnesium at night for several years to help with regularity, so I know that is not what the raisins are supplying that is helping.
“I have now had 3 of the best nights of sleep I’ve had in several years. I take about 15 raisins an hour before bed. I chew them well and that’s it; a great nights sleep. Last night I didn’t get up at all. It was wonderful.
“Others have talked about weight gain from the raisins. I don’t think 10 to 15 raisins will make much of a difference. Maybe with my increased energy from sleeping well, I can be a bit more active during the day. This whole thing sounds crazy, but I am very encouraged.”
Dick in Lake Mary, Florida is a happy camper and so is his wife:
“I am an 80-year-old with prostate cancer. I have been getting up every hour or two each night for the past 4 years.
“I tried the raisins before bedtime and I am amazed. Now I am getting six hours of continuous sleep!
“My 80-year-old wife complained about frequent nightly trips and I told her about the raisins. Now she sleeps like a baby!!
“Last week, I had a tooth extracted and could not eat the raisins for a couple nights. You guessed it. I was up every hour again! This really works!!”
People’s Pharmacy Perspective:
We don’t think the raisin remedy will work for everyone with nocturia. Nevertheless, it might be worth a try to reduce nighttime urination. It is certainly less likely to cause difficulties than prescription medicines. Remember to watch the calories and compensate for the extra raisins by cutting back on dessert and other snacks.
If the raisins don’t work or the benefits gradually fade. Here are some other approaches to consider:
Other Strategies for Combatting Nocturia:
- reduce fluid intake 3-4 hours before bedtime
- Always pee before climbing into bed
- try to exercise and improve fitness
- Ask your doctor about kegel exercises
- Try to lose weight if there are love handles
- If you are on water pills (diuretics) try taking them in the morning or early afternoon rather than before bed
A Cautionary Tale About NSAIDS for Nocturia:
Several years ago we heard from a runner who shared this story:
“Have you ever heard of ibuprofen helping men with prostate problems? I am a runner and frequently use ibuprofen after a long run. I discovered that on the days that I took ibuprofen I didn’t have to get up at night to go the bathroom.
“When I have beer with the boys in the evening I take ibuprofen afterwards and don’t have get up to pee. Normally, I would be up and down a couple of times.”
Since then we have heard from other men who get a similar “benefit” from NSAIDs like ibuprofen. There is even a fair amount of research to support the concept. Here are some links:
NSAIDs can be hard on the kidneys. Diminished urine flow is not necessarily a good thing, even though it might reduce trips to the bathroom. Other side effects of regular NSAID use include indigestion, stomach ulcers, heart attacks, strokes and hypertension, to name just a few. That’s why we do not advocate regular use of NSAIDs for nocturia. Raisins seem like a far safer option.