What Is Nocturia? Do You Need to Urinate at Night?

Nocturia Can Be Caused by Certain Medical Conditions

Man sitting on bed
Tetra Images/Getty Images

If you wake during the night to pee, you may be interested in learning about the cause of this occurrence. What is nocturia? What are some of the potential causes? Why is it more common as we get older?

What Is Nocturia?

Nocturia is defined as the excessive need to get up and urinate during the night. You may find yourself using the bathroom several times per night and this can be disruptive to your sleep.

It is different from enuresis (or bedwetting).

There are a handful of frequent causes of nocturia. The most common may be drinking too much water or other fluids too close to bedtime. Excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption also may contribute.

Normally our bodies are able to concentrate our urine and allow us to sleep through the night without getting up, but as we get older this may not work as well. In addition, older men may have nocturia as the result of retaining urine due to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Inflammation or infection of the bladder or urinary tract may lead to increased urination overnight. Other major medical problems also may contribute, including:

There are a number of medications that may cause nocturia. The most common are the diuretic medications that are used to treat high blood pressure or swelling.

One example would be furosemide (Lasix). Others medications that might cause nocturia include the following:

  • Demeclocycline
  • Lithium
  • Methoxyflurane
  • Phenytoin
  • Propoxyphene

Finally, there are some sleep disorders that might also cause nocturia. Obstructive sleep apnea is well known to contribute to frequent nighttime urination.

This may be because sleep apnea results in light sleep, leading to an awareness of bladder fullness, as well as hormonal changes that may also contribute to frequent peeing at night.

If you have trouble waking too often during the night to pee, you may want to speak with your physician to investigate what the underlying cause might be for you.

Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy: A Common Cause of Nocturia

Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) is a very common cause of nocturia in older men and refers to a non-cancerous, or benign, condition where the prostate gland, which surround the urethra or pee tube, becomes enlarged and thus obstructs the flow of urine. Concomitantly, the bladder wall also thickens, which makes it harder for you to void urine correctly.

Among men older than 50, BPH is the most common disease of the prostate. According to the NIH in 2010, an estimated 14 million Americans had symptoms suggestive of BPH. This condition affects about half of all men aged between 51 and 60. Furthermore, this condition affects about 90 percent of men aged 80 or more.

How Is BPH Treated?

There are different ways that BPH can be treated, including surgery and medication. Some people who can tolerate symptoms of BPH may decide to postpone treatment after speaking with their physician. If you think that you have BPH based on symptoms that you're experiencing, you should make an appointment with your physician to discuss diagnosis and management.


Dugdale, DC. "Urination – excessive at night." MedlinePlus, National Institutes of Health, accessed December 2011.

Continue Reading