By: Kennedy Shelley
Taking several bathroom breaks at night may seem like something that normally happens as we get older, but if you are going to the restroom more than twice a night it may be a signal of something more dangerous.
Nighttime bathroom breaks may be a sign of undiagnosed sleep apnea and that can be a killer.
The technical term for a midnight bathroom break is nocturia.
Spouses often complain about their significant others snoring, but that is only one sign of the dangerous condition known as sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is where you repeatedly quit breathing during the night. The effects of this are well known and all of the effects are bad news for your health.
- It disrupts your sleep, keeping you from fully resting.
- Increases your blood pressure, putting you at risk of a host of cardiovascular problems.
- Increases your risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Creates potential complications for emergency and elective surgery.
- Angry and sleep-deprived partners (Never a good thing).
But it can also be the cause of you going to bathroom several times a night. One or two is considered normal, but many sleep apnea sufferers make six or more and that puts you at considerable risk of a heart attack.
This makes trips to the bathroom one of the more effective screening tools to know if you have sleep apnea.
Getting up in the middle of the night is not the same as bed wetting which is a different problem.
Getting up to go to bathroom at night used to be seen as a sign of a full bladder and would send men to the urologist and women to the gynecologist instead of a sleep specialist, but guys this may not be a prostate problem.
The Sleep Apnea Foundation describes the problem like this:
“How does apnea cause nocturia? Dr. Mary Umlauf explains that during episodes of sleep apnea, the soft structures in the throat relax and close off the airway, setting into motion a chain of physiological events.
“Oxygen decreases, carbon dioxide increases, the blood become more acidic, the heart rate drops and blood vessels in the lung constrict,” says Umlauf. “The body is alerted that something is very wrong.
The sleeper must wake enough to reopen the airway. By this time, the heart is racing and experiences a false signal of fluid overload. The heart excretes a hormone-like protein that tells the body to get rid of sodium and water, resulting in nocturia.”
The great news is that taking care of the sleep apnea can end the endless trips to the bathroom at night and extend your life in the process.
In the long run, sleep apnea can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Sleep problems keep your body from getting restorative rest which helps us in staying healthy.
On top of this, nocturia kills your quality of life. You feel constantly tired and foggy during the day after extended nights of bad sleep quality.
Technology to treat sleep apnea is always improving and keeps getting cheaper. The machines used to be loud and the masks uncomfortable, but now they make masks out of breathable cloth and the machines are small and very quiet. And unlike the old CPAP machines that required constant calibration, the newer models adjust to your breathing automatically and monitor your sleep for you.
And if you treat it, you may not have to go to the restroom so many times at night.