Is waking up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night a warning sign of sleep apnea?

Snoring, fatigue and daytime sleepiness are often signs that a person has sleep apnea but there are additional indicators.

Believe it or not, waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom may also be a warning sign of sleep apnea. This is Nighttime Urination and Sleep Apnea!

The reason for this is because when you get into a deep sleep your body sends a chemical to your brain to let you know that you are sleeping and not to wake up to go to the bathroom so that you can stay in your deep sleep.  But when you wake up multiple times during the night due to sleep apnea this chemical is suppressed and not sent to your brain. Your brain thinks that you are awake and it’s ok to go to the bathroom.

Also when your airway is blocked or partially blocked as it is during sleep apnea, your body must exert more effort to pull air into the lungs, causing a change in pressure and more blood to flow toward the heart. The heart interprets this increased blood flow as an alert that there’s too much fluid in the system, and leads to the production of the hormone atrial natriuretic peptide. Your body then sends a signal to the kidneys via this hormone, the essence of which is we have too much fluid in here, it’s time to dump some and the body’s way to dump liquid is to induce the frequent need to urinate.

When the airway is clear, as it would be when Positive Airway Pressure is acting as a splint to keep it open, this whole chain of events never gets set in motion.

The medical term for this frequent need to urinate at night is called nocturia. Most people without nocturia are able to sleep for 6 to 8 hours without having to urinate. Some researchers believe that one event per night is within normal limits; two or more events per night may be associated with daytime tiredness. Patients with severe nocturia may get up five or six times during the night to go to the bathroom. In addition to sleep apnea, nocturia can be a symptom of other medical conditions including urological infection, a tumor of the bladder or prostate, a condition called bladder prolapse, or disorders affecting sphincter control. It is also common in people with heart failure, liver failure, poorly controlled diabetes mellitus, or diabetes insipidus.

nightime urination and sleep apnea

nightime urination and sleep apnea

I personally experienced nocturia before I was diagnosed and treated for sleep apnea. I would frequently have Nighttime Urination due to Sleep Apnea. I would go to the bathroom 3 to 5 times during the night and it would drive my wife, who is a very light sleeper, absolutely crazy as I would wake her up with every trip to the bathroom. But I couldn’t help it, I had nocturia. It got so bad that I didn’t know what to with myself anymore and decided to go to the urologist for an examination.

Unfortunately, I selected the wrong urologist because he was either not familiar with sleep apnea or had preconceived notions of what someone with nocturia looked like. Since I didn’t fit his mold he, unfortunately, overlooked my symptom and made light of my concerns by telling me about his other patients that had real problems, made light of my concerns, and assured me that I was fine.

The Urologist gave me a physical examination and told me that he didn’t see anything wrong.  It would have been nice if he advised that although he didn’t see anything physically wrong that it may be a good idea for me to see a sleep specialist, however, he didn’t do this.

Despite the Urologist not finding anything wrong with me I knew in my gut that something was seriously wrong. Little did I know at the time that my frequent urination, during the night, was just one more symptom of my sleep apnea and that my nocturia would disappear after being treated for sleep apnea.

Unfortunately, many people that have sleep apnea have been placed on medications that fail to work for their nighttime urination because the actual cause, sleep apnea, is not properly diagnosed. As if there weren’t already enough good reasons to treat your Sleep Apnea, this is one more. If your trips to the bathroom during the night are becoming more frequent, or you’re experiencing a more urgent need to go to the bathroom at night, talk to your physician about the possibility of sleep apnea being to blame and get yourself tested so that you sleep easier at night.

Please check out our Sleep Apnea Blog to learn more about Sleep Apnea.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post about nighttime urination and sleep apnea and I urge you to continue educating yourself about sleep apnea. Click here to read our blog post about fatigue being a warning sign for sleep apnea. 

You can save people’s lives and be a superhero.  All you need to do is learn about sleep apnea and then educate others then you will help save lives and make the world a better place!