Fact: When done right, a solid Sunday afternoon nap is among the most sanity-restoring of all activities. There are few wrongs that are not made right by getting a little bit of extra shut-eye in the middle of the day, whether for just a couple of minutes or for a couple of hours.
If, however, you find yourself in need of justification for getting your mid-day rest in, we have an important napping benefit you might not be familiar with. According to experts, napping has been shown to help prevent the need to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Indeed: If you sleep more throughout the day, you could help yourself sleep more at night (and benefit your bladder along the way).
“Nocturia is a condition that causes someone to wake up during the night to urinate,” says functional medicine physician Caroline Cederquist, MD, founder of BistroMD. “And napping is one prime doctor-suggested remedy for nocturia.”
The reason that this is an effective method for some folks (particularly those dealing with nocturnal polyuria) has to do with their body’s tendency to accumulate fluid throughout the day that doesn’t get filtered until laying down. “Throughout the day, when people ingest fluids, an optimally-functioning body filters fluids through the kidneys and creates urine,” Dr. Cederquist explains. “However, people with nocturnal polyuria—effectively, the overproduction of urine at night—experience abnormal fluid retention where fluid does not remain purely in the vascular system.” Those with nocturnal polyuria tend to follow a high sodium diet, or have been diagnosed with heart disease, kidney disease, or liver disease, Dr. Cederquist notes. “Further, varicose veins or some side effects of certain medicines, like blood pressure pills, can also cause this abnormal pattern of fluid retention,” she adds.
Additionally, Dr. Cederquist says that people who have nocturnal polyuria typically have a low or normal urine volume during the day, but at night, their urine volume increases. “Fluid that has been ingested throughout the day becomes retained in the interstitial places—such as in the spaces between the cells, organs, and muscles—instead of the optimal way, which is through the vascular system, meaning the arteries and veins. This interstitial fluid subsequently accumulates in the feet or legs because of gravity,” Dr. Cederquist says.
When you lay down to sleep, fluid no longer collects in the feet or legs. Instead, when sleeping, your body will begin to filter these fluids previously “stuck” in interstitial phases. “The body recognizes an influx of fluid to the system, as though a large amount of fluid was ingested, causing you to wake from sleep to urinate once the bladder is full,” Dr. Cederquist explains.
Napping for nocturia
Alas, here is precisely where naps come into play. “Naps are can be highly beneficial for those with nocturnal polyuria, as they allow retained fluid to be returned to the vascular system earlier—as in during the day—as opposed to waiting until bedtime,” says Dr. Cederquist. “Having a decreased amount of interstitial retained fluid allows people to sleep longer in the evening, which is extremely important. This is because waking very early in the sleep cycle can prevent someone from falling into a deep sleep, which is necessary for many of the restorative properties of sleep.”
Now, while Dr. Cederquist points out that a daily nap is by no means a guaranteed path to attaining a full, uninterrupted eight hours of high-quality shut-eye each night, it can still help to make folks with nocturnal polyuria feel significantly more well-rested. “For people who are prone to this type of nocturia, I recommend an afternoon nap around 3 p.m. for a duration of 30 to 60 minutes. Napping any longer can adversely affect nighttime sleeping,” she says. “And if an affected person is comfortable elevating their legs while they are napping, that is even more beneficial.”
If regular naps are simply untenable—whether as a result of your schedule or your sleep preferences—Dr. Cederquist points out that there are other lifestyle adjustments that can help with nocturia. “You can also work to reduce your dietary sodium intake, try getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity such as walking daily, elevate the lower extremities of your body after dinner, and avoiding prolonged periods of standing. All of these habits can all help reduce fluid build up, and thus help prevent nocturnal polyuria,” Dr. Cederquist suggests. “Additionally, a consistent bedtime, a cold, dark, and quiet bedroom, and one to two milligrams of melatonin can improve the sleeping experience, which may also help with nocturia.”
Moreover, adding more fiber to your diet can help with nocturia. “Constipation can cause nighttime urination,” pelvic floor expert Heather Jeffcoat, DPT with Fusion Wellness & Femina Physical Therapy previously told Well+Good. “This is because built-up fecal matter in the colon can press on the bladder and instill urgency strong enough to wake you up.” Dr. Cederquist agrees: “People who are constipated often have pressure on their bladder, which affects its ability to fully expand, causing nocturia. Avoiding constipation is probably the most immediate and important way a high fiber diet helps nocturia.”
Finally, she notes that some may also benefit from reducing the amount of time they spend in bed, as excess bedtime may result in shallower sleep and worse nocturia.